In accordance with a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association or BCBSA study, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) members were diagnosed with opioid use disorder at a rate of 493 percent from the time period of 2010 to 2016. The study also found that 21 percent of BCBS members filled at least one opioid prescription in the year of 2015.
“Opioid use disorder is a complicated problem, and there is no single approach to solving it,” claimed Trent Haywood, MD, JD, senior vice president and chief medical officer of BCBSA study.
The 7-year study, titled “America’s Opioid Epidemic and Its Effect on the Nation’s Commercially-Insured Population,” reviewed opioid-related medical claims and members diagnosed with opioid use disorder. They discovered that there was a 65 percent increase in medication-assisted treatments during the study period, but this comes nowhere close to the 493 percent increase in opioid use disorder during the same period. Researchers also found that states with the greatest growth in medication-assisted treatments were not necessarily the region’s most affected by opioid use disorder. The highest rates of long-term prescription opioid use and opioid use disorder were found in the South and Appalachian Region.
Researchers also discovered that, of those over 45 years of age, women had a higher rate of opioid use disorder, but of those under 45, men had a higher rate of the disorder. Women were found to have filled more prescriptions across all age groups. Finally, BCBSA found that those who had high-dosage prescriptions displayed higher rates of opioid use disorder in long- and short-term cycles.
“BCBSA study’s companies are already undertaking initiatives to assist families and communities address opioid use disorder,” said Kim Holland, BCBSA vice president of state affairs, “by forging partnerships with the medical community to enhance best practices in prescribing and providing critical education to the public to raise awareness of the threats of opioid use.”
To help combat the growing opioid epidemic, BCBSA study developed the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Workgroup, consisting of BCBS top leaders in medicine, pharmacology, behavioral health, fraud, public health and policy to develop suggestions regarding the prescribing and usage of opioid pain relievers. This workgroup is very important because, in accordance with the BCBS Health Index, substance use disorder is the 5th most harmful condition affecting member health.
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