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Opiod crisis and insurers
over 5 years ago

Opiod crisis and insurers


The opiod crisis continues in the US.


In the last week or so, the NYTimes reported that the crisis is at an all time high. The headline was pretty stark.

The First Count of Fentanyl Deaths in 2016:Up 540% in Three Years


Drug overdoses killed roughly 64,000 people in the United States last year, according to the first governmental account of nationwide drug deaths to cover all of 2016. It’s a staggering rise of more than 22 percent over the 52,404 drug deaths recorded the previous year — and even higher than The New York Times’s estimate in June, which was based on earlier preliminary data.


Drug overdoses are expected to remain the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, as synthetic opioids — primarily fentanyl and its analogues — continue to push the death count higher. Drug deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, accompanied by an upturn in deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamine. Together they add up to an epidemic of drug overdoses that is killing people at a faster rate than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak.

Note: Data for 2016 is provisional.

A lot of blame has been focused at doctors, clinics and hospitals. They even named some of the clinics “pill mills”.

The Guardian in the UK did a pretty interesting piece with graphics on the growing epidemic. Definitely worth checking out.


As heroin deaths in the US have more than tripled nationwide since 2010, critics say Florida’s efforts to contain an epidemic unleashed within its borders have only had limited effect in curbing one crisis while making another worse.


Florida’s problems started after OxyContin swept on to the market in 1996, just as medical authorities began pressing doctors to pay greater attention to alleviating pain. Unscrupulous businessmen in Florida spotted an opportunity.


Within a few years, hundreds of pain clinics popped up around the state dispensing opioid pills to just about anyone who asked. Among the earliest and biggest was American Pain in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, with a pharmacy run by former strippers and doctors carrying guns under their white coats.

Then this rather interesting story from the NYTimes:

Drugmakers, pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies and doctors have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, but the role that insurers — and the pharmacy benefit managers that run their drug plans — have played in the opioid crisis has received less attention. That may be changing, however. The New York State attorney general’s office sent letters last week to the three largest pharmacy benefit managers — CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx — asking how they were addressing the crisis.

ProPublica and The New York Times analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year. Only one-third of the people covered, for example, had any access to Butrans, a painkilling skin patch that contains a less-risky opioid, buprenorphine. And every drug plan that covered lidocaine patches, which are not addictive but cost more than other generic pain drugs, required that patients get prior approval for them.




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