What's step therapy and how does it work?

Who is this for?

Learn more about prescription drug and pharmacy coverage.

If your pharmacist said your prescription drug needs step therapy, learn what that means and what you need to do.

Just because something's expensive doesn't mean it's the best. If you're a smart shopper, you find an option that costs less and works just as well.

That's the idea behind step therapy. We use it to make sure you're getting the most effective and reasonably-priced drug available. It keeps costs down for everyone.

How it works

Step therapy is trying lower-priced medications before taking a step up to one that costs more. Here’s an example of step therapy:

  1. You take a generic drug to lower your cholesterol, but it's not working.
  2. Your doctor prescribes another medication, but it's still not working.
  3. Your doctor prescribes a different medication that works well. But it's more expensive. You find out that it requires step therapy.

Before your plan will cover the more expensive drug, we'll check to see if you've tried lower-priced drug options. In this case, you have.

If you don't follow the procedure for step therapy when it's required, the drug may cost you more, or may not be covered at all.

What if my prescription requires step therapy?

You or your pharmacist should tell your doctor. There may be another drug they can prescribe that doesn't require step therapy. If not, you can call the number on the back of your Blue Cross ID card to start the approval process and tell us the information we need.

You can also start the approval process by filling out and sending in a coverage determination form.


How do I know if a prescription requires step therapy?

Start by finding your plan's formulary here. If you're using the formulary—the list of drugs your plan covers—look for an ST after the name of your prescription.

If you need help finding your prescription in these documents, see How do I read a drug list?