The current opioid epidemic in the United States is growing. Each day, thousands of people begin to misuse opioids and many of them will join the millions of Americans already suffering from addiction.
In 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths exceeded 47,000 people — more than 130 deaths each day.1 Opioid addiction often starts because of prescription medication abuse, and nearly one in every three Medicare Part D beneficiaries took a prescription opioid in 2017.2,3
So, what is being done to fight this growing public health crisis? Can we find a balance between effective pain management and addiction prevention? What is the best way to help treat those struggling with opioid addiction? And — as neither the physician, nor pharmacist, nor patient — how can a health insurance company help?
Helping Providers, Pharmacists, and Patients
To help fight the problem, we’re taking a multi-pronged approach. We’re working closely with our network providers and pharmacists to give them the tools, information, and resources they need to care for their patients who are prescribed opioids, including:
- Providing a comprehensive portfolio of online opioid awareness tools and resources
- Providing access to forms of naloxone, which are emergency treatment options for known or suspected opioid overdose
- Assessing prescription history and requiring prior authorizations for both new and ongoing opioid therapies*
- Delivering live-time system alerts to dispensing pharmacists when potential opioid overuse is identified
For our members struggling with addiction, our health plans include coverage for:
- In-network mental health providers, specialists, and therapists who deal with substance abuse issues
- In-network substance abuse rehabilitation facilities to help members receive in-patient medication-assisted treatment and therapy
- Medication-assisted treatments such as buprenorphine-containing medications like Suboxone®
For additional information, learn how Independence Blue Cross is fighting the opioid epidemic in 2019.
What you can do
To see real, significant change, we all must do our part. From providers to patients, pharmacists to insurers — we are all responsible for handling opioid medications with the utmost care and caution.
If you, or your loved one, are prescribed an opioid pain medication, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself and others from potential misuse:
- Take them as prescribed. If you need to take opioids, do so only as directed — and stop taking them when you no longer need them for pain.
- Lock them up. Keep the medicine safe, secure, and out of the reach of children. (Nearly 68 percent of people age 12 and older who abuse pain medications say they get them from a friend or relative.4)
- Take them back. When no longer needed, pain medications should be disposed of at a Drug Take-Back Site.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
* Prior authorization is required for all high-dose opioids, long-term use, and opioid-containing patches
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drug Overdose Deaths
2 Jones CM. Heroin use and heroin use risk behaviors among nonmedical users of prescription opioid pain relievers – United States, 2002-2004 and 2008-2010. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013; 132(1-2):95-100.
3 OIG analysis of Medicare Part D data, 2017
4 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2014.