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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass. Cuts Narcotic Prescriptions

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BOSTON (AP) — The largest health insurer in Massachusetts has cut prescriptions of narcotic painkillers by an estimated 6.6 million pills in 18 months as part of a campaign to curb abuse.

Executives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts say the decline in prescribed opiates including Percocet and Vicodin followed the insurer’s decision to limit the quantity of narcotic painkillers its members could obtain without approval.

Patients with cancer and terminal illnesses are exempted from the limits.

Blue Cross Blue Shield says they took the initiative back in July of 2012, when they looked into the safety of opioid & prescription narcotics, and asked a panel of experts including doctors and addiction specialists if they saw prescription drug abuse as a growing problem. “They responded with a resounding yes it is. The number one issue was that people were given way more pills than they needed for their condition There’s enough prescriptions out there for every man and woman in this country to have a 30 day supply of narcotics, which is an astounding number,” said Dr. John Fallon, SVP & Chief Physician Executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts.

Company president Andrew Dreyfus tells The Boston Globe that the changes have reduced prescriptions by 20 percent for common opioids including Percocet, and 50 percent for longer-lasting drugs including OxyContin.

Dr. Fallon says Blue Cross Blue Shield is working on information sharing between physicians, so if a patient has more than one, each doctor can see what the other prescribes, and can identify those who need more medical attention.

Dreyfus says the program is the first of its kind in the state and possibly the country.

 

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com

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