Cigna says it has reduced customers' use of opioids by 25 percent

Cigna says it has reduced customers' use of opioids by 25 percent
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Cigna has reduced the amount of opioids its customers use by 25 percent, the health insurer announced Wednesday.

In May 2016, Cigna, one of the country’s largest health insurers, began identifying measures it could implement to try to curb the opioid epidemic. One of its efforts included decreasing opioid use 25 percent by 2019, a goal the company announced it has already met.

“I think the success that we’re able to generate in this initiative was really driven by the fact that while we focused on decreasing the opioid prescribing, we also did that while making sure that our customers had access to high quality evidence-based treatment for chronic pain conditions, as well as access to high quality, evidence-based addiction treatment,” Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer for Cigna's behavioral health division, told The Hill.

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The overprescription of opioids has been partly blamed for the opioid epidemic, which is killing more people per year than traffic accidents.

In a press release, Cigna said it worked to reduce opioid use in several ways, including notifying physicians when it appeared a patient might be misusing or overusing opioids and convening more than 2,000 medical groups in an effort to reduce opioid prescribing.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration have been grappling with how to curb the epidemic, which kills tens of thousands of people each year. President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat MORE unveiled his strategy last week, which includes cutting opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years.

Two years ago, Cigna started capping prescriptions for short-acting opioids for acute pain to 15 days, and over the summer it will limit this further to seven days, Nemecek said.

This brings the insurer in line with nonbinding guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that say, for acute pain, an opioid prescription of three days or less is “often sufficient,” and more than seven days “will rarely be needed.”

Other health-care stakeholders have been advocating for limiting the amount of opioids given to a patient, though it’s a move that’s been contentious among providers in the past. On Monday, the American Dental Association said it wants to put a seven-day limit on dentists' opioid prescriptions for acute pain.