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Aetna’s commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic

Apr 18 2017

The United States is in the middle of an opioid epidemic. The misuse of prescription painkillers, known as opioids, is a widespread problem in the U.S. and negatively affects families across the country. The data shows a problem that is impacting more people every day:

  • The amount of prescription opioids sold in the United States and the number of overdose deaths involving opioids quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions.
  • More than 500,000 people died from a drug overdose between 2000 and 2015.
  • Ninety-one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the CDC.

Aetna is working to reverse the rising trend with integrated pharmacy, behavioral health and medical programs. The programs connect health care providers and give members seamless access to the right support – mind and body – to fight addiction, while saving millions of dollars for the health care system. Aetna’s programs also attempt to address many different aspects of this complicated issue.

In June 2017, Aetna published its opioid strategy paper, which describes the company’s work to prevent misuse and abuse, intervene when an at-risk behavior is identified and supporting patients with access to evidence-based treatments.

Aetna’s chief medical officer, Harold Paz, M.D., M.S., sent out personal letters in 2016 to the “super-prescribers” of opioids – doctors who worked in a variety of practices and refilled prescriptions at a considerably higher rate than their peers.

Aetna Behavioral Health continues to work to help members manage and end their use of opioids. Aetna’s Resources for living can help educate and encourage members to take the smallest amount of opioids possible for the shortest period of time.

In addition, Aetna’s Resources for Living prompts members to think of alternatives for pain relief. Alternatives can include physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and mindfulness.

When mixed with certain drugs, such as anti-anxiety and insomnia drugs, opioids can cause a deadly reaction in the body. Aetna watches its pharmacy claims and can warn patients, pharmacists and prescribers of dangerous combinations of drugs.

Aetna also monitors if a member receives multiple prescriptions from different doctors or dentists or is filling them at numerous pharmacies. Depending on the situation, Aetna may send a letter to the prescriber and member, while also referring them to a behavioral health specialist.

Read more information and details on Aetna’s commitment to fighting prescription drug misuse and addiction.