Fighting Opioid Abuse With Solutions That Work

by Carmella Bocchino

October 11, 2016

Opioid abuse and addiction is a public health crisis.  A growing number of people are suffering from opioid addiction and we need strategies to help patients access effective treatments for pain – starting with alternatives to prescribing narcotics. As stated in a recent Health Affairs article “Encouraging Integrative, Non-Opioid Approaches to Pain: A Policy Agenda,” a key approach is to educate prescribers and consumers about effective pain treatments like exercise and physical therapy, for example. If prescription opioids are needed, that means starting with the lowest appropriate quantity and dosages. According to the Health Affairs piece, if patients show signs of addiction, they should have access to evidence-based treatment.

That’s why health plans support solutions to provide better care for patients with chronic pain set forth in the Health Affairs article. Encouraging the use of proven treatments, educating provider teams on effective non-pharmaceutical pain treatments, and using electronic decision aids to safely reduce the risk of opioids and introduce physical, occupational and psychological pain management therapies – these solutions work.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), with its members, support programs and tools to combat opioid addiction. That includes more effective education for both consumers and providers as well as sharing evidence-based treatment approaches and identifying potential policy solutions.

Health plans are playing a leadership role in combating this crisis. Our members recognize how physical pain can be a chronic – and debilitating – condition. Our members cover a wide range of proven treatment options that address biological, social and psychological factors. Because the risk of addiction is so great and the consequences so profound, our members encourage physicians and patients to jointly develop pain treatment plans that consider non-narcotic treatment options, such as physical or occupational therapy, chiropractic care, or acupuncture. Many plans support the CDC’s opioid prescribing guidelines that state opioids should not be first-line or routine therapy for chronic pain.

Opioid addiction and abuse is a crisis, but working together – health plans, physicians, nurses, and pharmacists – with the right solutions, we can tackle it.

Carmella Bocchino is Executive Vice President at America’s Health Insurance Plans