News & Commentary

In opioid epidemic battle, Anthem sees early success in its affiliated plans reducing the number of opioid prescriptions filled at pharmacies

August 23, 2017
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Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in America, killing tens of thousands of people every year. We’ve chronicled the opioid epidemic plaguing our country in previous blog posts on this site, and discussed the ways those in the health care industry can work together to help address this complex and growing crisis. We believe that insurers have a responsibility to do what we can to combat this epidemic, and reducing the number of opioid prescriptions through prevention is one part of that battle. Anthem is responding to this epidemic through a three pillar strategy focusing on prevention, treatment and deterrence.

Just this week, Anthem announced that it has found early success with efforts to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions filled at pharmacies. Anthem reached a reduction of 31.4 percent in May, 2017, and created a new goal of a 35 percent reduction by 2019. These quantity limits began rolling out in October 2016 for individual short-acting opioids, with the limit on the most popular drug, Vicodin, taking effect in July.

This goal was achieved as a result of the following implemented policies:

  • Limiting coverage of opioids to seven days
  • Requiring provider prior authorization
  • Directing those most at risk for opioid use disorder to one pharmacy

While these steps forward are encouraging, much more remains to be done to address this public health crisis, recently declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump. To that end, Anthem has also committed to helping its affiliated health plans double the number of members who receive behavioral health services as part of medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction by 2019, as well as identifying and addressing instances of opioid waste, fraud and abuse by leveraging its data mining and analytic capabilities. 

In the video below, Dr. Craig Samitt, chief clinical officer and executive vice president at Anthem, Inc., addresses the challenges of the opioid epidemic and discusses ways health insurers can work to help combat the crisis.

To be successful in combating opioid use disorder, it is critical that all members of the health care community search for new solutions within their own expertise and across specialties. It is only in working together, and addressing holistically through prevention, treatment and deterrence, that we will be able to roll back this epidemic.

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