Last week, CVS Health announced it will limit the duration and dosage of opioid pain killers to certain individuals. HSR commends CVS Health for taking action towards addressing the Opioid Crisis in the United States.
However, we caution that simply limiting access to Opioids or the dosage of certain painkillers, while certainly well-intentioned, may wind up being punitive to those who do need and truly benefit from these medications.
This move may drive more patient towards heroin and other illegal narcotics for pain relief. Restricting access to medication is counter to the tenets of the US medical system where we strive to provide best care possible.
Now, we recognize CVS Health’s decision is borne of a desire to provide the best care – but is also the likely result of frustration over a growing epidemic, one with no end in sight.
So how do we address the Opioid Epidemic?
We suggest taking a strategic view of who is at high risk from opioids and treat those patients, their pain and specific risk factors accordingly. HSR has developed a risk stratification that identifies those individuals who are at high risk of Opioid addiction, diversion, and overdose. Our approach provides the risk stratification to the medical community – to physicians and pharmacies – and allows them to work with patients & their families to make the best care decision on a case-by-case basis.
As an example, for some patients it may be best to pair any use of opioid painkillers with enhanced monitoring or counseling to reduce the onset of addiction and instances of overdose. In other cases, limiting the duration of an opioid prescription to 7 or fewer days, may in fact be the right approach. However, the specific approach to treating pain and pain management will ultimately be best left to the physician and patient rather than through a blanket declaration.
How does the OARM work?
Our patient risk stratification for Opioid Abuse Related Mortality (OARM) merges historic hospital or health system records with data from social determinants of health and combines it with our novel and patent-pending geospatial health data analytic approach to creates a scoring system that identifies individuals as being High, Medium, or Low risk for either addiction, diversion, or experiencing an overdose in a one-year window.
For further information on the OARM, please contact Ajay Gupta at Agupta@healthsolutionsresearch.org.