- Insurance giant Cigna announced plans for a nationwide effort to further reduce the number of opioid overdoses in its patient population by 25% by December 2021. The company says it will work with employers, prescribing physicians and other clinicians, pharmacists, customers and community-based organizations on prevention and treatment remedies to curtail addiction.
- Cigna also plans to improve access to care and resources for addiction and chronic pain through a community-based approach and continue collaborating with physicians and other drug subscribers to reduce further opioid misuse. The company will focus first on areas where most of its commercial customers live and where there are above average rates of opioid overdoses.
- Citing new statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cigna says the number of opioid-related drugs increased 345% between 2001 and 2016. Also, in 2016, one in 65 of all U.S. deaths were linked to opioids, and 20% of all deaths for adults ages 25 to 34 were opioid-connected, according to the company.
As the opioid crisis ravages the workplace, proactive employers are moving to slow the damage prescription drugs can wage on their workers.
Drug addiction siphoned off 20% of men from the U.S. workforce, according to a 2017 Princeton University report. Besides the deaths and personal devastation drug addiction causes, the opioid crisis also comes with an annual $600 billion price tag in healthcare costs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Fueling the cost are absenteeism, turnover, lateness, lost productivity and crime resulting from the misuse of such drugs as codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine. Opioid addiction sometimes leads to addiction to illegal drugs like heroin.
The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) has called for a similar collaboration. As an advocate for a proactive approach to handling the effects of the opioid crisis in the workplace, NBGH said employers should team up with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to ensure that their health plans are abiding by the national guidelines for opioid prescriptions set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, CVS Health joined the fight against opioid addiction last year by changing the way physicians prescribe certain drugs and ensuring that patients receive counseling on the drug's usage instructions and its potential ramifications.
Employers can't afford to skip out on warning workers about the prolonged use and negative effects of prescription painkillers. They should consider ensuring that guidelines for prescription drugs are followed, experts said, and work with all stakeholders involved to undo the opioid crisis through prevention and treatment.