Aetna Embraces Medication to Combat Opioid Crisis

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Aetna is going all in on medication-assisted treatment in response to the opioid epidemic, according to a letter CEO Mark Bertolini is sending today to a handful of Democratic senators. Bertolini highlights three goals the insurer hopes to achieve by 2022: Reduce inappropriate opioid prescriptions by 50%. Increase by 50% the number of opioid addicts treated with medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatments. Increase the number of enrollees with chronic pain who use alternative pain treatments by 50%. Go deeper: Aetna's embrace of medication-assisted treatment is a sharp contrast from some insurers' previous reluctance to cover the approach, which Bob Herman covered for Modern Healthcare. It also follows Tom Price's controversial comment saying medication-assisted treatment is "substituting one opioid for another." But Aetna has already worked to make medication more available: Earlier this year, it removed all pre-authorization requirements for certain products and put them on a preventive medicine list...
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Hospitals Retraining Staff to Minimize Opioid Prescriptions

Hospitals Retraining Staff to Minimize Opioid Prescriptions
A growing number of hospitals across the country are rewriting protocols and retraining staff in an effort to minimize opioid prescriptions, PBS NewsHour reports. The changes are most pronounced in emergency departments. At the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital, emergency room doctors used to give opioid painkillers right away. Dr. Phillip Chang, the hospital’s chief medical officer, says now doctors, pharmacists and nurses use non-opioid pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol first. They try multiple regimens before considering opioids. In a study of 900 patients treated at the hospital after the new policies were implemented, the trauma unit almost halved the amount of opioids given to patients who had no prior history of chronic opioid use. But there was little change in prescriptions for patients who were already chronically using opioids before admission. The hospital is now training ER doctors to prescribe fewer opioids for drug-dependent patients, and...
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More Than Half of U.S. Doctors Reducing Opioid Prescriptions

More Than Half of U.S. Doctors Reducing Opioid Prescriptions
A new survey finds more than half of U.S. doctors are reducing the number of opioid prescriptions they write. Almost 10 percent have stopped prescribing opioids altogether, The Boston Globe reports. More than one-third of doctors surveyed said reducing opioid prescribing has hurt patients with chronic pain. The survey was conducted for the newspaper by the SERMO physicians social network, an online community that allows doctors to anonymously share ideas and concerns. Doctors said the two main reasons they have cut back were the risks and hassles involved in prescribing opioids, and a better understanding of the painkillers’ risks.
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