Solving the Opioid Crisis Requires That We All Work Together

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We have made progress, but in our state and in the city of Manchester, the opioid problem is still a major issue. The cost in human life and associated problems continues to be the most difficult to bear. Looking forward, we must all work together to explore the root causes of addiction and how to best use available resources to prevent and treat it. Working together includes first responders, treatment centers, law enforcement and providers who prescribe opioids. It also includes health insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers that monitor and pay for prescriptions. There are many stakeholders in this fight.

Two bits of positive news has been announced recently from two health care companies that do business in our state, Cigna and Express Scripts. Cigna recently announced that it has reduced misuse of opioids by more than 25 percent in the last two years, a year ahead of its original goal. The company coordinated over 2,000 medical groups representing more than 65,000 doctors in the U.S. to reduce opioid prescriptions and treat misuse as a chronic condition. Using an integrated analysis of pharmacy, medical and behavioral benefits, Cigna worked to alert physicians of risks of possible misuse or overuse of opioids by their patients.

Likewise, Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits manager, developed an opioid management program that has resulted in a nearly 60 percent reduction in the average day supply for patients receiving an opioid prescription for the first time. They did it using data to notify physicians when there has been potential duplicate therapy, misuse and abuse or use of multiple prescribers or pharmacies to signal when a patient is at risk. Fewer pills means less potential for abuse.

This is not a one item job. It is a team effort. Those who prescribe the drugs, those who work with the dispensing of the drugs and those who monitor this effort must all work together and with other stakeholders to address this issue.   We must start at the source of the problem and solve the need with a plan of action that gives us the results we desire. This effort requires an “all hands on deck” effort and the major players must be all in.