BlueCross BlueShield of Massachusetts made the decision in July 2012 to limit the quality of prescription narcotic painkillers that its members receive without prior authorization from the company, according to a news report on WBUR.
Eighteen months later, the results show that prescriptions for narcotic painkillers have decreased by roughly 6.6 million pills over this time period.
"Our program is about preventing harm by making sure our members receive the highest quality care for pain, while reducing the risks that come with such treatments," said Dr. John A. Fallon, senior vice president and chief physician executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. "The results are encouraging and show that, among other things, health plans can play a meaningful role in helping to prevent prescription pain medication addiction."
A press release on the insurance company's website states that "the steps were taken after the health plan's own review showed that more than 30,000 of its members received prescriptions for powerful painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet lasting longer than 30-days, which many experts believe increases the risk of addiction."
Additionally, the company discovered in the review that thousands of its members were receiving combination prescriptions containing acetaminophen at levels that could potentially be harmful.
According to WBUR,
The program calls for shorter term initial prescriptions and an addiction review for patients seeking long-term prescriptions for drugs like Vicodin or Percocet.
"This initiative is a common sense approach that balances the needs of patients while addressing a real public health concern with regard to painkillers," said Dr. Joseph Leader, a Pediatrician from Woburn, Massachusetts who has been outspoken about the need to protect adolescents from the risk of prescription opiate abuse and addiction.
Among the results at the 18-month check-up, there was a 20 percent decrease in claims for short-acting opioid painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. And, there was a 50 percent decrease in claims for long-acting opioids such as OxyContin, by working with providers to switch patients to more appropriate short-acting medications