ShareThis Page
Health

Highmark introduces new effort to curb opioid addiction

| Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, 1:36 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images

Highmark Inc. plans to implement a new policy designed to limit the supply of opioid painkillers to first-time recipients.

Under the new effort, a patient will be given a seven-day prescription and will have the opportunity — if necessary — to refill it for another seven days within a 30-day period. The limits won't apply to people who need opioids to manage pain from chronic conditions, such as cancer.

The goal is to reduce the risk of addiction to opioid-based medication. Highmark said data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show people who use an opioid for one day have a 6 percent chance of becoming dependent. If an opioid is used for more than a week, that addiction probability jumps to 13 percent.

“By limiting the prescribed amount for patients who typically may have had a surgery or an acute incident, we hope to reduce the number of people who eventually become addicted to these powerful drugs,” said Sarah Marche, vice president of pharmacy services for Highmark. “This approach is consistent with the recently released CDC safe prescribing guidelines.”

The program starts in March.

Highmark said it is also expanding its relationship with axialHealthcare, a Nashville firm that specializes in pain and opioid management solutions, with the introduction of a new tool that gives patient-specific, opioid-risk information directly to providers.

The program was tried two years earlier in West Virginia where 250 providers received clinical consultation on pain management. Highmark said results showed patients receiving opioids from multiple physicians fell by 28 percent. Plus, the number opioid overdoses fell by 25 percent.

“Eleven percent of the U.S. population is in chronic pain,” said Charles DeShazer, Highmark's chief medical officer. “This is why we are expanding the program to Pennsylvania. We expect positive results here, just as we have seen in West Virginia.”

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-871-2346, selliott@tribweb.com or via Twitter @41suzanne.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me