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Friday
Apr072017

Health Plans and the Opiod Abuse Crisis

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By Clive Riddle, April 7, 2017

 

The Associated Press reports that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, “the doctor nominated to head the powerful Food and Drug Administration told senators Wednesday that his first priority would be tackling the opioid crisis.” 

 

What are health plans doing about Opiod Abuse? Last June, the California Health Care Foundation released  a report taking the issue on: Changing Course: The Role of Health Plans in Curbing the Opioid Epidemic, along with companion California health plan case studies and an infographic. Nationally, last fall AHIP weighed in, discussing how health plans are Fighting Opioid Abuse With Solutions That Work.

 

So what are some current developments on the health plan Opioid Abuse front?

 

Cigna has just announced that Use of Prescribed Opioids Down Nearly 12 Percent Over 12 Months Among Cigna Customers. Cigna reports that “58 medical groups participating in Cigna Collaborative Care, representing nearly 62,000 doctors, have signed Cigna's pledge to reduce opioid prescribing and to treat opioid use disorder as a chronic condition.”

 

Cigna states that their program works with participating doctors to: (1) Analyze integrated claims data across pharmacy and medical benefits to detect opioid use patterns that suggest possible misuse by individuals, and then notifying their health care providers; (2) Alert doctors when their opioid prescribing patterns are not consistent with CDC guidelines; and (3) Establish a database of opioid quality improvement initiatives for doctors.

 

Cigna also reports that “effective July 1, most new prescriptions for a long-acting opioid that are not being used as part of treatment for cancer or sickle cell disease, or for hospice care, will be subject to prior authorization, and most new prescriptions for a short-acting opioid will be subject to quantity limits.”

 

Last week the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans announced their member plans have jointly committed to combating opioid abuse and addiction in Wisconsin and effective April 1, Wisconsin's community-based health plans are collaborating on new initiatives.  The Association members agreed to: (1) support the Association’s Statement of Principles for addressing opioid abuse  that “form the basis for sharing information, best practices and evidence-based strategies”; (2) Track morphine equivalent dose and first-time user trends for their individual and employer group members,, generating comparative data to enrich provider education and management of prescription drug formularies and coverage policies; (3) Work with provider partners to support strategies to reduce and control the level of opioid prescribing; (4) Share methodologies, best practices and evidence-based strategies to improve the quality of pain management and opioid prescribing; and (5) Ensure that every member suffering from opioid abuse has access to medically-appropriate treatment options.

 

Two weeks ago BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York released episode four of their Point of Health Audiocast, “Addressing the Opioid Epidemic from a Health Plan Perspective,” aimed at increasing awareness of the issue and engaging stakeholders.

 

FamilyCare Health, a health plan serving Oregon Medicaid and Medicare members, “kicks off its 4-part Opioid Training series for providers on Thursday, April 27, 2017 with ‘Buprenorphine: What we know and what we don’t. Prescribing safely for pain management and opioid dependence.’ “

 

And last week, Prime Therapeutics, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association PBM, released two studies, highlighting strategies for addressing opioid epidemic.  The first study “analyzed concurrent use of opioids with benzodiazepines”, citing “previous research has shown concurrent use of these two types of drugs can increase the risk of overdose and death,” and “found more than one in six opioid users without cancer – or nine per 1,000 commercially insured members – used these two drugs concurrently for 30 days or more in 2015.” Their second study “found pharmacists based in a PBM or health plan, who do outreach to prescribers, can reduce emergency room visits and controlled substance drug costs among persistent users of controlled substances.” Following the outreach conducted with the study intervention group, “controlled substances drug costs per member for the intervention group dropped from $5,802 to $5,148, while controlled substance drug costs increased for the control group from $3,511 to $3,627 per member. Emergency department visits were 6.4 percent lower in the intervention group, compared with the control group.”

 

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