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Members facing surgery now can search for doctors offering opioid alternatives

Jul 19 2018
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Opioids can be effective at treating pain, which, in part, has made them the first option for many doctors looking to treat chronic or acute discomfort in their patients. However, overreliance on this medication has resulted in an epidemic of opioid misuse, ravaging communities across the country.

Aetna’s DocFind database now includes doctors offering opioids alternatives.

To help our members find providers trained in the use of non-opioid and alternative pain therapies, Aetna has expanded its DocFind database with information on surgeons who use medications such as EXPAREL. The initiative is an expansion of Aetna’s collaboration with the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) and Pacira to reduce the number of opioid tablets prescribed to members undergoing impacted wisdom tooth extractions.

EXPAREL, which is administered once during surgery at the surgical site, provides pain relief for up to three days. It is non-addictive, has a better side-effect profile and easier to manage than opioids. The drug is used to recover from all types of common procedures, and an increasing number of Aetna members are using it for operations involving hernias, breast cancer and rectal disorders.

“We’re excited about this enhancement to our provider search directory because it empowers our members to make more informed decisions around post-surgical pain management,” said Dr. Daniel Knecht, Vice President of Clinical Strategy and Policy.

Providing members with additional pain management options is a key part of Aetna’s comprehensive strategy to fight the opioid epidemic. Aetna is the only health insurer offering this kind of actionable information to members and the first and only dental carrier to cover EXPAREL.

Many people who struggle with addiction to opioids never intended to be in that unfortunate position. Rather, frequently their journey began with an injury or surgery that required pain management. In those cases, a physician prescribed an opioid, the patient subsequently developed a dependence on the medication even after the pain had ceased.

A 2017 study from the CDC found that 20 percent of patients given an initial 10-day prescription of opioids were still taking them after a year [1]. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: Approximately 116 people die each day from opioid-related drug overdoses. [2]

Aetna is dedicated to helping break this vicious cycle through a multi-pronged approach that includes integrated pharmacy, behavioral health and medical programs as well as encouraging increased access to alternate pain treatments, including non-opioid analgesics, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, chiropractic care and acupuncture (coverage can vary by plan).

“The effects of opioid misuse and abuse are hurting individuals, families and communities across our nation,” said Dr. Hal Paz, executive vice president and chief medical officer. “We are working hard to help reverse this trend by reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing,  encouraging non-opioid pain treatment options and promoting evidence-based recovery for our members in need. Our focus is on giving members easier access to the right support—mind and body—to fight addiction.”

[1] cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6610a1.htm. Accessed March 29, 2018.
[2] “Drug Overdose Death Data” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html