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Friday, October 28, 2016

Opioid Addiction Medication Preauthorizations

The American opioid epidemic highlights the need for greater access to addiction treatment services throughout the country. While over 70 people die from an opioid related overdose every day, there are effective addiction treatments that are being underutilized. In recent years, there has been a huge push from both Federal and local government agencies to ensure that everyone who wants or needs treatment—gets it. Whether it be through residential treatment or intensive outpatient, millions of Americans desperately need care.

At reputable residential treatment centers around the country, the drug buprenorphine is widely used for detoxification purposes. The drug can ease the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Most people with an opioid use disorder would struggle making it through detox without buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Suboxone. However, buprenorphine is a semisynthetic opioid derivative, that can cause euphoria and lead to dependence if taken for extended periods of time.

Most treatment centers will wean patients off of Suboxone after their withdrawal symptoms subside and before they are discharged from the facility. On the other hand, primary care physicians around the country have begun prescribing Suboxone in an effort to stem the tide of opioid addiction epidemic, it is a program referred to commonly as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). There are conflicting opinions about MAT. On the one hand it is considered to be the lesser of two evils when compared to heroin abuse, yet the drug is addictive and withdrawing from Suboxone can be more painful than that of heroin.

As was mentioned earlier, people are dying so there is a real need to combat this epidemic where and when we can. If the recommendation from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) is MAT, then it is likely that more and more doctors will be prescribing Suboxone in the coming years. Last week, the insurer Cigna announced that it will no longer require pre-authorization for prescriptions to treat opioid addiction, USA Today reports. The news comes in the wake a national settlement announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"Getting people into treatment faster, and when the window of opportunity is open, is vital to stemming the opioid addiction crisis,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Other health insurers should take notice of Cigna’s actions to remove access barriers to treat opioid dependency and I encourage those insurers to follow suit.”

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