Opioid overdose deaths: What can we do?
In our efforts to improve the health of humanity, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem) and our affiliate HealthKeepers, Inc. have made a long-term commitment to reducing morbidity and mortality associated with substance use disorder (SUD). In recent years, with a focus on primary and secondary prevention, we’ve seen significant reductions in the use of inappropriate opioid prescriptions for acute and chronic pain as well as the promotion of and increased use of safe alternatives for pain management. Similarly, Anthem has been a leader in increasing access to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders including medication for addiction treatment (MAT).
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the nation’s progress as evidenced by a 30% rise in deaths from overdose that the nation has experienced with the majority being from opioids (CDC). The impact on overdose rates from the pandemic requires that we also increase our efforts at preventing deaths from opioid overdose. Specifically, there is a need/opportunity to work collaboratively with our partners in the community to increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (aka “Narcan”). Anthem’s internal claims data from the second quarter of 2021 shows that approximately 20% of members experiencing a non-fatal opioid overdose are starting and continuing with medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) which can include buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone. However, only 7% of these members have evidence of filling a prescription for naloxone. These rates have improved from a 2015 baseline of approximately 1%, but we have significant room for improvement.
What can we do to address this?
First, be an advocate for destigmatizing substance use disorders by supporting efforts to improve access to MOUD and harm reduction strategies including the use naloxone. We can learn more at www.Shatterproof.org, which is an organization that Anthem has historically supported.
Second, educate your patients about substance use disorders including how to spot them in a loved one, and how to support them when considering change. Visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/recovery for more information.
Third, learn more about the life saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone including how to obtain it, and how to administer it. See www.getnaloxonenow.org for more information.
June 2022 Anthem Provider News - Virginia