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Aetna sees opioid prescriptions decrease

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Since August 2016, Aetna has seen a 7 percent reduction in the rate of monthly opioid prescriptions among its commercial pharmacy membership. There has also been a 5 percent reduction in the rate of monthly opioid prescriptions among its Medicare Advantage pharmacy membership.

The decrease in prescriptions are a result of several company-wide efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in the United States.

One of those efforts is an initiative Aetna launched in 2016, when letters were sent to nearly 1,000 doctors, who were identified as being “super-prescribers” of opioids. They worked in various specialties and prescribed opioids at a higher rate than their peers.

In 2017, the company continued its outreach initiative by identifying and sending letters to 480 super-prescribing dentists and 249 super-prescribing oral surgeons in the U.S. Dentists were considered super-prescribers if they wrote more than four prescriptions for more than a 7-day supply over the past two years, based on Aetna’s claims data. Oral surgeons, who typically treat more severe conditions, were considered super-prescribers if they wrote more than five prescriptions for more than a 7-day supply over the past year.

A graphic showing the number of super-prescribers by state .

“Dentists and oral surgeons are second only to family physicians when it comes to prescribing opioids, and are the leading prescribers of opioids to children ages 10-19,” said Harold L. Paz, M.D., M.S., executive vice president and chief medical officer for Aetna. “We strongly believe that dentists and oral surgeons want to act in the best interests of their patients. Aetna is using its considerable data resources to help clinicians understand how their prescribing patterns compare to their peers and to established guidelines. This will enable them to reduce misuse and abuse and prevent the diversion of unused pills which represents a major driver of the opioid epidemic.”

The number of opioid prescriptions greater than seven days by state.

The dentist letters, which were signed by Dr. Paz and Mary Lee Conicella, DMD, FAGD, chief dental officer for Aetna, provides a link to the Pennsylvania Dental Association’s guidelines on prescribing opioids for dental pain.

Letters sent to oral surgeons were signed by Dr. Paz, Dr. Conicella and Douglas W. Fain, DDS, M.D., FACS, president of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The letter contains a link to the Minnesota Dental Association’s protocol for assessment and treatment of oral and facial pain.

Read more about Aetna’s commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic and other programs and measures in place to prevent prescription drug misuse and addiction.