Health Care Stakeholders Discuss Strategies to Ensure Safe Opioid Prescribing & Use

Last week, CVS Caremark Medical Director Dr. Dick Creager joined a panel of experts at a Duke University Margolis Center for Health Policy workshop to discuss payor and pharmacy benefit manager approaches to the opioid epidemic. As long as the opioid epidemic continues to impact millions of American lives, workshops such as these provide health care stakeholders an opportunity to share strategies, discuss potential solutions, and establish best practices for safe prescribing and opioid management.  

Dr. Creager was accompanied by Kate Berry, Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at America’s Health Insurance Plans; Ellie Garrett, Deputy Director of the Office of Medical Director at Minnesota Department of Human Services Deputy; Dr. Anuradha Rao-Patel, Medical Director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina; and moderator Gregory Daniel, Deputy Director of the Margolis Center and Clinical Professor at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. 

While panel participants primarily represented payors, they each offered unique perspectives based on varied experiences and backgrounds to share how their organizations are using data to track opioid prescribing and to intervene when necessary. Here are several steps that CVS Health is taking, particularly though the CVS Pharmacy and CVS Caremark lines of business, according to Dr. Creager. 

Encourage Adherence to Safe Prescribing Guidelines

CVS Health has embraced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for opioid prescribing. These include recommend limitations on dosage and duration of opioid prescriptions. Through a utilization management review program aligned with CDC guidelines, CVS Caremark is able to encourage safe prescribing among providers. 

Prescribing Patterns Are Important

Automated and manual review processes allow CVS Health to analyze pharmacy and claims data to identify when patients are at risk for opioid dependence, whether their prescriptions adhere to guidelines or were exempt from guidelines for clinical reasons. These reviews can also identify providers who overprescribe opioids. Outreach systems are in place to alert payers, providers, and patients when this occurs and to offer support. 

Educate on the Dangers of Opioids

In addition to individual education and counseling delivered to patients and providers through various programs, CVS Health has engaged in community efforts to educate the public at large. For instance, the Pharmacists Teach program allows CVS Pharmacy pharmacists an opportunity to deliver educational presentations on the dangers of opioids to students across the United States, and has already reached more than 300,000 students. Prescription for Parents is a similar educational program that helps to teach parents about the best ways to discuss the dangers of opioids with their children. 

Support Community Partners

Many individuals who develop opioid use disorders begin when they have access to a friend or family member’s unused prescription. For this reason, CVS Health is introducing safe medication disposal units at 750 CVS Pharmacy locations and has donated more than 800 units to law enforcement agencies in the communities we serve. The CVS Health Foundation has also made a $2 million commitment to Community Health Centers delivering recovery support to patients with opioid use disorders. 

CVS Health continues to collaborate with health care stakeholders and community partners in a coordinated effort to continue progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic.  

Video of the day-long workshop held this past Thursday, February 16, including the panel featuring Dr. Creager, is available on the Margolis Center YouTube page

For more information about our efforts in the fight against opioid abuse, visit Our Commitment to Fight Opioid Abuse and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. And to stay informed about the most talked-about topics in health care, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.