Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar     Subscribe     Contact Us    

Reducing the Risks of Addiction One Prescription at a Time


"Prevention is preferable to cure." These words are part of the modern Hippocratic Oath, which guide my work and the work of my fellow physicians across our state. Today we are facing a crisis that demands a preventive solution: prescription painkiller abuse.

The stakes are real - I've heard too many heart-wrenching tales of lives lost and families torn apart. We know many of these addicts never intended to be drug abusers, but began with a real need to treat pain from injuries or other medical conditions.

And the vast majority of prescribers are doing what is in the best interest of their patients to effectively manage pain. Yet despite good intentions and their best efforts, opioid prescriptions and addiction have escalated in the last decade, along with drug overdose deaths.

At BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, we covered one million opioid prescriptions for our members in 2015. That scale has given us deep insights on usage patterns that uniquely position us to help prevent painkiller abuse before it starts.

We launched a public health initiative in 2016 guided by an external panel of clinicians with pain management expertise. Our first goal is to educate prescribers on best practices for opioid use. Another is to change prescribing patterns and place quantity controls to reduce the harmful effects these drugs have on some members.

We began our phased approach this year with modest quantity limits and prior authorization (PA) requirements for new long-acting opioid prescriptions. The PA will ensure that providers are discussing a treatment plan and medication history with their patients before writing a prescription for chronic pain management

Our intent was to phase in changes without throwing anyone into crisis. To date, we've been successful with only minor disruptions. It is also important to note we are granting immediate exceptions for members undergoing oncology and end-of-life care

On Jan. 1, 2017, we implemented the next round of prescription pain medication changes based on CDC guidelines and provider feedback. These include a PA on all long-acting opioid prescriptions (new or current) for all members with BlueCross pharmacy benefits.

We also set new quantity limits on both long and short-acting opioids.

Finally, we've put in place morphine equivalent dose limits across all pain medication prescriptions. This will provide an objective standard and help manage the cumulative impact of the various opioid drugs a member may be prescribed.

The aim of our efforts is not to deny care or generate cost savings. Our only goal is to reduce the devastating effect that opioids - when overprescribed or not used as intended - have had on Tennessee families and communities.

We know these changes may be met with concern and resistance by some parties. But no one else in our state should have to suffer from painkiller addiction. No mother should have to be told her child has overdosed, and no child should have to be separated from their home as a result of a parent's addiction.

The responsible steps we're taking to prevent misuse and abuse are simply the right thing to do.

Dr. Andrea D. Willis is chief medical officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.


Related Articles:

Recent Articles

Cancer Care on the Cutting Edge

Nashville physician-scientists are helping lead the way in advancing cancer care.

Read More

The Evolution of Senior Living

The senior living industry is undergoing a makeover as baby boomers shift focus from medical-directed care to hospitality-driven services.

Read More

When Basic Science Becomes a Breakthrough

Noted immunologists joined forces at the recent International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference to discuss the importance of fostering and funding basic science.

Read More

Dr. Meredith McKean Brings New Hope, More Options for Melanoma Patients

Oncologist Meredith McKean, MD, MPH, overseeing Sarah Cannon's Melanoma Research Program

Read More

ONcology Rounds

News of note in cancer research, treatment and partnerships.

Read More

Ascension Saint Thomas Opens Cancer Center

Ascension Saint Thomas recently celebrated the grand opening of their comprehensive new cancer center on the Midtown campus.

Read More

NMGMA 10 Minute Takeaway

Medicare Part B representative from Palmetto GBA offered updates and resources to navigate compliance.

Read More

Improving Quality, Lowering Cost of Care for Seniors

Five years into the Medicare Shared Savings Program, more and more ACOs are beginning to demonstrate the ability to improve quality while lowering costs.

Read More

Planning Ahead: Patients & Power of Attorney

The time to think about a durable power of attorney is long before it's needed. Barbara Moss discusses the importance of the document in healthcare.

Read More

Council on Aging Honors Middle Tennesseans

The Council on Aging (COA) of Middle Tennessee hosted their 27th Annual Sage Awards on Oct. 29. With a belief that aging should be celebrated and embraced and that older adults have a lifetime of wisdom and experience to offer communities, the Sage Awards are presented each year to older adults who have made outstanding contributions to Middle Tennessee.

Read More

Email Print



Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: