One of America's largest health insurers has cut its opioid prescriptions by 25%

  • Cigna has cut its opioid use among members by 25% since 2016, a year earlier than expected.
  • To do that, Cigna worked with healthcare providers by giving them information about their prescribing patterns, and what the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, as well as how to identify high-risk patients.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, more than 183,000 people in the US died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

Health insurer Cigna on Wednesday said it had cut its opioid use by 25% since 2016.

In 2016, Cignacommitted to lowering opioid use among its customers by 25% over three years. And in October 2017, the health insurer said it will no longer cover OxyContin, the branded version of the painkiller oxycodone. Cigna still covers generic oxycodone alternatives to OxyContin.

To do that, Cigna worked with healthcare providers by giving them information about their prescribing patterns, and what the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, as well as how to identify high-risk patients.

“We took a holistic view of our goal and our objective,” Cigna CEO David Cordani told Business Insider. “It wasn’t reducing pharmaceutical opioid consumption for a subset of a subset of our population, for just people at high risk or just people in certain clinical protocols. It was rather an all-encompassing approach which enabled us – or required us – to work with physicians, dentists, and health care professionals at a variety of levels.”

Between 1990 and 2015, more than 183,000 people in the USdied from overdoses related to prescription opioids. At the same time, as the US opioid crisis escalates, those who suffer from chronic pain and take opioid-based painkillers are feeling pressure from new policies that limit prescriptions.

To help members with chronic pain manage their pain, Cigna Behavioural Health’s chief medical director Dr. Doug Nemecek told Business Insider that the company worked with non-opioid alternatives, including physical therapy, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioural therapy.

“We were really excited to approach the challenge of decreasing the opioid prescribing by 25% while making sure that we did that the right way by ensuring access for our customers to quality evidence-based treatment for both their chronic pain disorders as well as addiction disorders,” Nemecek said.

Next, Cigna plans to add other safety measures like limiting the duration of opioid prescriptions or making sure daily doses aren’t at an unsafe level “as appropriate,” the company said in a news release. The company also plans to launch a prevention initiative about pain management.

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