Opioid abuse in the United States is rampant. Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In addition, pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®), are available legally by prescription.
Opioids attach to brain receptors and emit chemicals which blocks pain, slows breathing, and calms. Therefore, long-term usage will increase tolerance levels and lead to higher addiction rates, even if taken as prescribed. Hence, the same drug dosage becomes less effective and can lead to overdose.
About 12.5 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Opioid overdoses caused more than 33,000 deaths in the USA in 2015.
One Pharmacys Solution
The nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs prescribed to first-time users.
Express Scripts launched a yearlong pilot program in 2016 aimed at reducing patients’ opioid dependency on addiction risk. Most relevant, 106,000 patients showed a 38 percent reduction in hospitalizations and a 40 percent reduction in emergency room visits.
Under the program, new users are limited to seven-day prescriptions, even if the doctor orders scripts for much longer. The average prescription is 22 days. Moreover, Express Scripts also requires short-acting drugs for first-time prescriptions, even though many doctors will prefer longer-acting drugs.
Express Scripts monitors for patterns of “pill shopping,” where a patient will go from doctor to doctor to collect additional prescriptions.
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Opioids abuse in the United States is killing people and Express Scripts is attempting to bring this epidemic under control by limiting prescriptions and dosages. However, the American Medical Association, is against this plan as they maintain that treatment plans should be left to doctors and their patients.