This week, the Portland Press Herald reported that Maine has seen a 15% decline in Opioid prescriptions. This massive drop could be a glimmer of hope for the ongoing opioid crisis that has hit states like Maine and North Carolina so hard. Studies have linked over-prescription of opioids to higher rates of abuse and addiction.
The Hearald reports:
"The announcement Wednesday by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield follows growing evidence that overprescription and abuse of opioids such as Oxycontin and others have largely fueled the sharp increase in heroin addiction and overdose deaths that averaged more than one per day in Maine last year."
In 2016, Maine had an average of over one death per day from overdoses. So this sudden decrease in unnecessary prescriptions hopefully heralds an improvement in addiction rates and health outcomes.
This reduction in opioid prescriptions is good news from a health cost perspective as well. Recent guidance from the CDC suggests that opioids are not a good treatment for chronic pain, so prescribing them for that purpose imposes an unnecessary cost on our expensive healthcare system.
But of course the best way to reduce health care costs is to stay healthy, and any news that signals a reduction in addiction and abuse is a step towards improving our society's health. Addiction treatment and medical costs associated with opioid abuse are expensive. This good news out of Maine will hopefully lead to lower addiction rates, lower abuse and, most importantly, improved quality of life.
Anthem, one of Maine's largest insurers, has taken the lead in Maine to curb the over-prescription of opioids.
"Anthem has some stricter policies than the new state law on opioid prescriptions, including limits on the pharmacies used by patients at risk of addiction, and a requirement of prior authorization by Anthem for new opioid prescriptions used for chronic pain.
By comparison, the Maine law does not require prior authorization for prescriptions, although it does limit the dosage and length of opioid prescriptions."