Aetna’s continuing work on helping combat the opioid epidemic includes a study suggesting the strength of the drug might not be the best predictor of misuse.
In a study coauthored with Harvard Bioinformatics, findings show that among surgery patients with no history of recent or chronic opioid use, there was a higher risk of misuse and abuse if they were taking the opioids for a longer duration. The study appeared in the January 2018 edition of BMJ and the research relied on insights derived from Aetna’s pharmacy and medical claims data.
“We hope this paper facilitates a change in culture among surgeons in how they manage post-operative pain,” said Dan Knecht, M.D., M.B.A, vice president and head of Clinical Strategy and Policy at Aetna.
The study is part of Aetna’s commitment to battling opioid misuse, which includes initiatives targeting super-prescribing clinicians and changing its policies to limit overprescribing and increase access to addiction treatment.
Hal L. Paz, M.D., M.S., executive vice president and chief medical officer at Aetna, recently discussed Aetna’s efforts in a PBS documentary called, “Understanding the Opioid Epidemic.” The documentary looks at the factors that led to the epidemic, its impact on the country and how it can be addressed.
Inappropriate prescribing and misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is a contributing factor to the epidemic. In a well-intentioned effort to more aggressively treat their patients’ pain, some physicians may have underestimated the dangers of dependence and abuse.
“Because of the addictive properties of these drugs and the fact that they are very effective in eliminating pain, the pendulum swung way out, but at a tremendous cost and in tragic ways,” Paz said. “We have to bring it back to the middle.”
Paz appears in Chapter 4 of the documentary, which you can watch below: