California is not immune to the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation. While the proportion of opioid-related deaths in the state sits lower than national averages, there are still thousands of opioid overdose deaths, emergency department visits related to overdose and tens of millions of opioid prescriptions every year.
San Francisco-based insurer Blue Shield of California launched its Narcotic Safety Initiative in 2015 with the goal of reducing opioid use among its members by 50 percent. Recently, the organization reported positive results that showed a 56 percent reduction in overall opioid use among members with chronic, non-cancer pain from 2014 levels.
“We know as pharmacists that there has been this pendulum swing in how prescribers are viewing the use of opioids as pain treatments,” said Salina Wong, Blue Shield of California’s director of clinical pharmacy programs.
“As we were identifying the risk that our members were carrying with opioid use we really felt that health plans have a major role in intervening and helping our providers prescribe more contentiously.”
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March 21, 2019