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Reversing the harmful societal effects of prescription and illicit opioid abuse will take years of coordinated efforts, including that of regulators and insurance companies, according to a report released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration charged the Washington, D.C.-based think tank with analyzing the epidemic — via prescribing patterns and the nationwide opioid death toll — and proposing strategies to mitigate it.
Researchers say it is possible to stem the still-escalating prevalence of opioid abuse without foreclosing access to opioids for patients suffering from pain whose providers have prescribed these drugs responsibly.
Public and private payers, including insurance companies, should develop reimbursement models that support evidence-based and cost-effective comprehensive pain management, including both drug and nondrug treatments for pain, the findings reveal. The report also calls for better training for physicians and greater awareness among the general public of the dangers of opioid over-prescribing.
Meanwhile, the report also highlights an unintended consequence of restricting opioid use: “The committee stressed that restrictions on lawful access to prescription opioids could have other unintended effects, and any policy designed to curtail legal access to them will inevitably drive some people toward the illegal market.”
Researchers also stressed that opioid abuse treatment is paramount in stemming the epidemic: “… A strategy for reducing lawful access to opioids should be coupled with an investment in treatment for the millions who have opioid use disorder.”
Nearly half of the states included in a study of opioid prescribing in workers compensation cases have seen reductions in the frequency and strength of powerful pain medications given to injured workers, according to a study released Tuesday by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute.