By Brett Kelman

The largest health insurance company in Tennessee will stop covering OxyContin prescriptions next year as part of sweeping policy changes intended to combat opioid addiction and make pain pills less valuable on the black market.

The shift is a major blow to one of the drugs that ignited the nationwide opioid epidemic. In place of OxyContin, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will instead encourage doctors to prescribe two other painkillers that are engineered to be more difficult to abuse.

BlueCross will publicly disclose the decision to abandon OxyContin for the first time during meetings with insurance brokers on Thursday. OxyContin will no longer be covered on Jan. 1.

“We are not telling our physicians you cannot prescribe this. We are not telling our members you cannot receive this,” said Natalie Tate, BlueCross vice president of pharmacy. “We are just drawing a line that we will not continue to pay for this and we have alternatives we have now put into place.”