Aetna Sees Progress on Its Five-Year Plan to Fight Opioid Addiction

Aetna’s ambitious five-year plan to fight opioid addiction through a three-pronged strategy of prevention, intervention and support is making an impact for members who struggle with opioid use disorder (OUD) as well as those who are seeking better ways to manage chronic and acute pain.

“We are committed to finding innovative solutions that address the impact of OUD for our members and their loved ones,” said Daniel Knecht, M.D., M.B.A., VP of Clinical Strategy and Policy at Aetna, a CVS Health business. “And that means developing programs and approaches that help our members manage pain with safe, appropriate treatment.”

Aetna’s five-year goals, aimed for achievement by 2022, include:

  1. Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing to members by 50 percent,

  2. Increasing the rate of Aetna members with chronic pain who are treated by an evidence-based, multi-modal approach by 50 percent, and

  3. Increasing the rate of members with opioid use disorder (OUD) who are treated with medication-assisted therapy (MAT) and other evidence-based treatments by 50 percent

Guardian Angel Program Offers a Lifeline

While it’s important to track data, Aetna is committed to combatting opioid addiction on human terms by creating a support system for people stricken by this condition. Aetna launched a first-of-its-kind Guardian Angel program in 2018 to offer support to people who have recently suffered an opioid overdose.

“When a person survives an overdose, they are especially susceptible to a subsequent overdose. But they’re also very open to healthy change at the same time,” said Jeff Balek, LCPC, CADC, Guardian Angel Team Clinical Team Lead. “That creates an opening for a clinician to reach out, allowing the person to take their first step toward recovery.”

Balek noted that the people he’s worked with appreciate having a support system to navigate tasks like finding appropriate treatment and community resources and making appointments.

“These members are usually feeling scared, alone and discouraged,” he said. “Just like any other disease with high rates of mortality, the focus needs to be on promoting and assisting these individuals into lifesaving treatment.”

Aetna Foundation Grants Reach into Communities

The Aetna Foundation’s pledge of $6 million in state-based grants provides support for state government agencies, hospital associations and grassroots organizations in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida in their efforts to combat addiction in local communities. Additional grants are planned for 2019.

“One thing that is abundantly clear is that there is no one singular playbook for combatting opioid addiction,” said Garth Graham, M.D., President of the Aetna Foundation. “We have to look at every constituency as a valuable asset in the fight.”

Support for first responders—through the donation of thousands of Narcan kits in several communities especially hard-hit by addiction—was an important part of Aetna’s strategy in 2018. Aetna’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer also provided education for these groups on the front-lines in identifying and treating an overdose. Narcan nasal spray, a formulation of the life-saving drug naloxone, reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and is administered easily by first responders in the field.

Leveraging the Strengths of CVS Health-Aetna

Looking forward, the combined resources and capabilities of Aetna and CVS Health will be brought to bear on this critical issue, building on the progress already made. CVS Health has been recognized for its work to address OUD with comprehensive pharmacy care, including:

  • Increasing access to safe medication disposal by installing thousands of disposal units in CVS Pharmacy locations and community-based law enforcement offices across the country,

  • Establishing a standing order to dispense naloxone to CVS Pharmacy patients without an individual prescription in 48 states, and

  • Educating hundreds of thousands of students and parents across the U.S. about the safe use of opioids through its Pharmacists Teach program.

Click here to read more about how Aetna is tackling opioid addiction, and stay tuned for more on Aetna and CVS Health’s combined strategy to continue the fight against opioid addiction.

Goal progress shown represents percent change between June 2017 and June 2018.

Thursday, March 7, 2019