Major Philly Health Insurer To Limit Opioid Prescribing To Just Five Days
Independence Blue Cross, the largest healthcare insurance provider in the Philadelphia area recently announced that it intends to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain within its network to just five days. The company already has limitations on the number of painkillers than a physician can prescribe, but also claims that its policy has decreased opioid misuse by its members by almost 30% in the last three years.
Indeed, New Jersey and other states have already implemented or are considering similar laws, but Independence is among the first health insurers to limit opioid prescriptions. The company provides covered to mover 2.5 people in Pennsylvania, and through affiliates, to another 8.5 million in 25 other states and Washington D.C.
The company issued this statement:
“Beginning in July 2017, we will further restrict prescriptions to no more than five days for initial low dose opioids. We will continue to cover longer lengths of opioid prescription use for members suffering from cancer-related pain and hospice patients.”
“This safeguard prevents multiple opioid prescriptions from being filled at different pharmacies and reduces the risk for addiction…[as well as] the risk of unused medication being diverted into the hands of unintended users.”
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released recommended guidelines for opioid prescribing, urging physicians to limit prescriptions to seven days or less. Independence says that it actively promotes these guidelines.
In 2016, more than 900 people in Philadelphia died from drug overdoses, and more than half of those were related to heroin or fentanyl. If the trend continues, that number will reach more than 1,200 in 2017.
Others died from prescription drugs, but according to the Department of Public Health, these numbers have been declining. However, the CDC reports that as many as 80% of those who initiate heroin use admit to first becoming addicted to prescription drugs, so the number of deaths may be converting from prescription opioids such as oxycodone to heroin.
In 2015, more than 52,000 people it the United States died from a drug overdose. Of those, 33,000 related to either illicit or prescription opioids or opiates, according to the CDC. Also, as many as two million may be addicted to prescription painkillers.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology