The opioid crisis has been officially declared a national public health emergency, calling to action all parts of the health care system, law enforcement and local, state and federal governments to mitigate its devastating effects.
On Nov. 2, CVS Health Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer and General Counsel Tom Moriarty delivered opening remarks at POLITICO's Health Care Briefing, The Opioid Crisis: Crucial Next Steps. The event brought together health care experts and policymakers to discuss the policy challenges around the opioid epidemic, what initiatives are working, and where more resources are most needed.
Addressing the Epidemic from Multiple Angles
Moriarty reiterated CVS Health's (No. 50 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) commitment to helping address the national opioid crisis through a comprehensive, enterprise-wide approach that attacks the epidemic from multiple angles – from prevention to treatment. Moriarty said that CVS Health can make an impact by reducing the number of unnecessary opioids that are dispensed, encouraging the removal and safe disposal of unused medications in the home and supporting treatment programs to help those struggling with addiction.
Beyond these efforts, CVS Health is also advocating for effective policies to prevent and mitigate the crisis, which Moriarty said includes requiring e-prescribing for controlled substances and strengthening Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.
Experts Weigh in with Personal Experience and Multifaceted Solutions
The expert panel included policymakers Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Hal Rodgers (R-KY), as well as health care practitioners, Dr. Michael Bicket, Director of the Pain Fellowship Program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Dr. Jeanmarie Perrone, Director of Toxicology and Attending Physician at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Panelists discussed their personal experiences in their communities, noting that, because of the complexity of the problem and its indiscriminate nature, multifaceted solutions are required, from increased federal funding for local programs, to enhanced provider and consumer education.
A Key Issue: Addressing Prescription Opioid Over-Prescribing
The panelists agreed that a significant factor contributing to the growth of the problem in recent years is prescribing patterns leading to an over-abundance of opioids in homes and communities. While acknowledging the positive impact made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines on opioid prescribing to address chronic pain,1 panelists felt more was needed to educate health care providers in medical school and through continuing medical education on the risks of opioids and potential alternatives to address pain. They also noted a need to incentivize reimbursement for these alternatives, which may include physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care.
The Rise in Illicit Opioid Overdose Deaths
Examining how the opioid crisis has evolved, panelists shared concern about the rise in illicit opioid overdose deaths resulting from heroin and fentanyl. Panelists agreed that increased funding for local prevention efforts and medication-assisted treatment programs is needed to help turn the tide on overdoses in local communities.
For More Detail: Working Group Report
In October 2017, Bicket and Perrone, also participated in a working group discussion of a dozen experts to evaluate progress on the opioid epidemic since the CDC released its guidelines in spring 2016. The discussion, summarized by POLITICO, revealed policy gaps and opportunities related to reducing addition, abuse and dependence of opioids.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/guideline.html