Opioid Abuse: A National Epidemic and a Growing Challenge for States

By Joshua Moore, Pharm. D.

Joshua Moore, Pharm. D, MO HealthNet executive account manager for Government Healthcare Solutions at Xerox
Joshua Moore, Pharm. D, MO HealthNet executive account manager for Government Healthcare Solutions at Xerox

Opioid abuse is a rising epidemic across the United States – and the statistics are alarming:

  • Americans account for 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone (Vicodin) consumption and 80 percent of the world’s oxycodone (Percocet and OxyContin) consumption, according to the New York Times.
  • Prescription drugs as a category has moved up to the No. 2 spot on the list of most abused and trafficked types of drugs in the world, according to the International Narcotics Control Board.
  • The Center for Disease Control reports that 44 people die every day from opioid overdoses – that’s more than 16,000 deaths per year.

Lawmakers across the country are grappling with how to address the ensuing public health and safety threats, as well as the related financial burden created by the large number of opioid prescriptions. President Barack Obama’s administration recently introduced major expansions to the 2016 fiscal budget. States will receive grants targeted at fighting opioid-related deaths, including funds to purchase naloxone – which reverses the effects of some opioids – and to train emergency responders on when and how to administer it effectively.

Experts Discuss Opioid Abuse Prevention and Intervention
Medical experts discuss the root causes of opioid abuse, as well as how states and healthcare providers can curb prescription drug abuse.

Join our Google+ Hangout on September 30. (View replay here.)
Send your questions about opioid abuse to #HealthITExperts on Twitter.

How Technology Can Help Reduce Opioid Abuse

But what else can be done to ensure that opioid abuse is prevented, while still permitting access to medications for pain management?

At Xerox, we believe appropriate care management plays a huge role in reducing prescription drug abuse, while allowing those who need prescriptions to access them in a timely manner. One prime example is our prescription clinical authorization tool with MO HealthNet, the Missouri State healthcare services program for low income and vulnerable citizens. The tool uses technology to provide real-time data and alerts that ensure opioids are prescribed and used safely and effectively. Since the implementation of the prescription clinical authorization tool in January 2012, MO HealthNet has dramatically reduced the number of patients receiving more than the recommended dose of opioids – Vicodin use dropped more than 30 percent, while Percocet dropped 16 percent.

Using medical claims data via MO HealthNet, Xerox sends notification letters to physicians of patients who appear to have received additional opioid prescriptions from other providers. Since September 2013, 300 providers received notification about 1,491 patients who were flagged as potentially over-utilizing opioids without a supporting diagnosis. The letter provides indicators of drug abuse, along with the patient’s profile and a recommendation that the doctor reevaluate the patient’s treatment plan. Within six months, the number of target patients flagged for overutilization was reduced by 73.9 percent.

The success of the collaboration between MO HealthNet and Xerox has helped the state save more than $44,000 in intervention-related drug expenditures during the six-month post-intervention period.  However, more work must be done on a national level.

That’s why on September 30, at 2 p.m. EST, we will discuss the opioid abuse epidemic with several health and medical experts from across the country. We will drill down on the root cause of this epidemic from a clinical standpoint, and identify how states and healthcare providers can curb prescription drug abuse in the United States.

Panel members will include Gail Levenson, principal in the National Pharmacy Practice for Buck Consultants at Xerox; Steve Calloway, director of pharmacy at MO HealthNet; Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at the Phoenix House; and Dr. Robert Monger, rheumatologist at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, and medical director for Care and Quality Solutions at Xerox.

Opioid abuse is a complex issue that will require an equally multi-faceted, collaborative solution. You can be a part of that solution by joining the conversation and sending us your questions about opioid abuse to #HealthITExperts on Twitter. Together, we can make a difference.

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One Comment

  1. Betty January 23, 2016 - Reply

    How about when you have chronic pain from degenerative disc disease and the insurance companies won’t pay for physical therapy forever to alleviate the pain but they will pay for pain medication? I even checked into surgery and the surgeon said its not bad enough. So I risk becoming addicted to pain medicine. I don’t get to choose!

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