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The Opioid Crisis: Everyone’s Problem

In Issue 2, 2018 , of Provider News, we outlined what Highmark is doing to help overcome the abuse of prescription opioid medications. Click here to see our updated information.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that overdose deaths from prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999. The most common drugs are:

  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone

Highmark supports the CDC’s guidelines on prescribing opioids. The recommendations improve how opioids are prescribed for chronic pain, ensuring patients have safe access to effective pain treatment while reducing the risk of inappropriate use.

For more information on determining when to start or continue opioids, selecting opioid dosage or duration, or assessing risk of opioids, check the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain .

Reminder for new prescriptions

According to the CDC, more than 11.5 million Americans , age 12 and older, reported misusing prescription opioids in 2016.

Highmark’s guidelines include:

  • Short-acting opioids: For individuals new to therapy, initial prescriptions will be limited to seven days. Prior authorization applies. These patients will receive a maximum 14-day supply for short-acting opioids within a 30-day period without additional authorization.
  • Long-acting opioids: Prior authorization is required, with confirmation of diagnosis, for new users to initiate therapy.

There are exceptions for patients with cancer or other terminal illnesses.

Methadone maintenance coverage

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, Highmark covers methadone maintenance as a treatment option. To find a methadone dispensary in your area, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) web site and enter the city or ZIP code.

National Rx Take Back

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Prescription Drug Take Back happens twice each year. The fall date is Oct. 27, 2018.

The initiative provides a convenient and responsible way for individuals to dispose of prescription drugs that they no longer need or aren’t taking.

During the April 2018 drop-off day, local groups and law enforcement agencies in West Virginia collected 6,171 pounds of prescription drugs.