According to the CDC, more than 2 million Americans are living with an opioid addiction, and 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. You may have heard of this national crisis, but you may not know the steps that the Medical community is engaging to combat it.
To avoid safety issues, including opioid use disorder, overdose, or unlawful use, the medical community is being proactive about opioid dispensation.
“It’s affecting a lot of people, and it’s going to take a really comprehensive solution to fix it, so it’s going to involve everybody," says Dr. David Buchholz, Director of Provider Engagement at Premera Blue Cross.
If you are currently taking medication for pain control, this may have a direct impact on you, particularly if you have been using opioids for an extended period or are taking high doses.
"Especially if it's not really helping with their function, so doctors are becoming more and more aware about how to measure their function, how to measure their pain," Dr. Buchholz explains.
Don't panic; doctors are still committed to making sure that patients get access to the care they need, however, more specificity, conversation, and management is now enacted around the dispensation of certain medications.
"There are lots of alternatives, often that work just as well," Dr. Buchholz says, "The good news is that Premera and many insurances cover all the alternative therapies."
Chad Murphy, VP of Pharmacy at Premera Blue Cross, gave insight into the prescription monitoring program that has been set up by the state for pharmacists to use. "It produces all the data for people to access prescription records to make sure they have a full picture of where this patient or this customer is filling prescriptions throughout potentially the state or even other states."
Dr. Buchholz says that patients can also participate in the battle against opioid addiction, "Be proactive and ask the right questions. Do I really need an opioid? What’s my alternative? What are the possible side effects?"
What might these processes look like for you at the doctor's office?
- The number of opioid pills you receive may be limited in the future
- You may get a call from your health plan if you fill multiple prescriptions for opioids
- Your medical provider may discuss alternative medications and therapies for acute and chronic pain
- Your provider may discuss weaning you from opioids or connect you with resources if they suspect an opioid use disorder.
"The role of an insurance plan," says Dr. Buchholz, "to help providers understand when not to use opioids, and also to help distribute the current guideline, and make sure that we don’t create the next generation of opioid users."