How Does Doctor Shopping Impact The Opioid Epidemic?

How Does Doctor Shopping Impact The Opioid Epidemic?

Surprisingly, the non-medical prescription of drugs, including opioids, continues, with only states holding legislation against this dubious practice smothering the flames helping stoke the opioid addiction fire. Since 1999, deaths from prescription opioids have quadrupled, alongside opioid sales of painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). But this hasn’t stopped opioid abusing patients from trying to nab a couple of extra pills by ‘doctor shopping,’ the practice of hopping from physician to physician and playing the numbers until finding a doctor who will meet the patient’s desire for a few extra pills. Luckily states nationwide, alongside the insurance and healthcare community, are becoming increasingly aware of these issues, and are attempting to stem this contributing facet of the epidemic through the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). And a new study has shown them astonishingly successful.

An Easy-to-Use, Effective Means of Curbing ‘Doctor Shopping’

Physicians utilizing these state-run electronic prescription databases, mandatory in some states and voluntary in others, offers them access to each patients prescription history, and the opportunity to see drug types and quantities prescribed to patients before breaking out the prescription pad. In addition to thwarting potentially deadly drug interactions and excessive dosages, a recent study has shown that these programs are highly effective for reducing the non-medical prescription of drugs, boasting a whopping 80% reduction in the odds two (or more) doctors would dole out pain relievers for non-medical reasons to a single patient in states with mandatory PDMP use, and slashing the odds 56% in states with voluntary participation. Every state except Missouri now has one of these programs. Other studies have also shown states tracking a wider range of potentially addictive medications and updating databases weekly witnessed the biggest reduction in overdose deaths.

Won’t Patients Turn to Illicit Substances?

Public health advocates have had this worry for quite some time, but the current study pointing to the massive, 80% reduction in non-medical prescription of opioids in those states with mandatory programs also uncovered some reassuring news. PDMPs did not, in fact, lead to an increase in doctor shopping individuals turning to heroin. This offers hope for the promise of PDMPs as part-and-parcel of a multifaceted, comprehensive strategy toward fighting the nation’s opioid epidemic, which steals the lives of 91 Americans each day.

About the Author: Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers and ANS Pharmacotherapy Review Program is the most advanced, results-oriented drug utilization review program in the industry. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit http://ans-solutions.com/.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/how-does-doctor-shopping-impact-the-opioid-epidemic/

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Medical Marijuana Vs. Big Pharma

Medical Marijuana Vs. Big Pharma

Increasingly gaining ground as an accepted medicine by top health associations, researchers, and medical journals, the marijuana industry continues its massive expansion, with legalization encompassing more than half the U.S. Predicted to expand nationwide by 2021 by investment firm The Motley Fool, other sectors of the economy are feeling the strain of the industry’s new growth – but no one greater than Big Pharma.

Marijuana & Pharmaceutical Market Share
In an effort to determine how cannabis cash flow is effecting the pharmaceutical industry, researchers at the University of Georgia uncovered just how much of the pharmaceutical pie is being gobbled-up in medical marijuana states – and the results were stark: The average doctor in cannabis-friendly states prescribed 265 fewer dosages of antidepressants, 486 less anti-seizure meds, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses, 562 less anti-anxiety meds, and a whopping 1,826 less doses of pain medications, saving the government’s Medicare Part-D program an estimated $165 million on prescription pills. Taking that total nationwide, an estimated $470 million would disappear from Big Pharma’s annual revenue from this avenue alone.

Expanding Data on Marijuana & Opioids Worrisome for Pharma
A 2014 JAMA study stated opiate overdoses dropped roughly 25% in states with legalized medical marijuana, implying patients may be using it for pain treatment – or to lessen their painkiller load. According to according to the report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, legalization states also failed to see the expected influx of pot smokers through hospital doors – instead experiencing a decline in hospitalization rates for opioid abuse and overdoses, which dropped 23% and 13% respectively, on average.

Fighting Legalization While Simultaneously Developing Synthetic Cannabis Drugs
This big dip in pharmaceutical purchases is hitting Big Pharma hard, and combined with industry interests, is fueling massive donations to anti-marijuana campaigns, making Purdue Pharma (OxyContin) and Abbot Laboratories (Vicodin) some of the largest contributors to the Anti-Drug Coalition of America. Now infamous, Insys Therapeutics, Inc. (Fentanyl), who currently faces multiple federal and state investigations for aggressive sales and marketing practices, donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, helping eke out a narrow 51-49 block of Arizona’s 2016 legalization attempt, and making it the only state in which legalization failed in 2016 voting. One of the largest individual contributions to any anti-legalization campaign in history, just five months later Insys won approval for a cannabis-derived pharmaceutical – an anti-nausea drug for AIDS patients – causing cannabis market leaders to reflect on the ethics of Big Pharma’s positioning, and why it has been favored by the DEA and FDA over plants that have already proven effective, safer, and cheaper than prescription drugs.

Stacking the Deck
Few have the resources necessary for this level of lobbying, or to manage the massive fees and extensive oversight necessary to work with the DEA and FDA for testing marijuana usage and product development – but Big Pharma does. It has achieved approval for other drugs in the past, including synthetic THC med Marinol for cancer and AIDS patients. Two cannabis-infused chewing gums by AXIM Biotech now currently await approval for IBS and MS treatment, as well as a topical for eczema/psoriasis. Kannalife Sciences is also developing new drugs for degenerative brain conditions (hepatic/chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Once approved, the drugs are classified separately from Schedule I whole plant marijuana products, their kissing cannabis cousins, and 100% legal with a script.

Are You Ready for a Changing of the Tides?
The workers compensation world is sure to experience turmoil over the upcoming years as changing legislation and front runners in the marketplace scramble for their share of the pie.

anthonyAbout the Author:  Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information visit http://ans-solutions.com .

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/medical-marijuana-vs-big-pharma/

Medical Marijuana and the Workers Compensation Conundrum – Part 1

Medical Marijuana and the Workers Compensation Conundrum – Part 1

Because the U.S. Federal Government has dug-in its feet, leaving marijuana as an illegal, Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, state governments have been left to individually pave their own legalization paths, leaving a frustrated public in the wake. Employers, employees, doctors, workers comp case managers, and more feel frustratingly in-the-dark as ever-diversified, continually evolving legislation continues to change the landscape. This is the first post of our two part series of spotlighting medical marijuana in the marketplace.

What We Do Know About Medical Marijuana

Though state laws vary widely on the amount of legal possession and personal cultivation for medical use, to-date 29 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use, including 8 states who’ve legalized its use recreationally. For medicinal purposes, marijuana has been scientifically confirmed effective for pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea control, and reducing ocular pressure. It is arguably cheaper and less addictive than opioids, however both research and quality control are lacking. For injured workers and those in the workers’ comp industry, its most-likely application is pain relief, however it’s typically not be the first drug in the treatment lineup for prescribing physicians.

What’s Murky About Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Compensation

Marijuana dispensing differs from run-of-the-mill pharmaceuticals, with product obtained from dispensaries or home growth, not pharmacies, leading to a gap in patient information on potentially dangerous drug interactions. Patient protections also remain muddy. Still illegal under federal law, stateside court rulings are chaotic. Fifteen states offer little to no employee protection, while 11 states explicitly provide protections from retaliatory actions to limits on drug testing from employers. Furthermore, all states with medical marijuana have pending legislation and litigation that could have a broad impact on the workplace, creating a landscape reminiscent of the Wild West.

Who’s Paying For Medical Marijuana Prescriptions?

Who knows? Medical marijuana’s Schedule I status prohibits its inclusion in the National Drug Code, leaving Medicaid and Medicare patients on the sidelines. This lack of regulation also equates to a dearth of coding, complicating processing for pharmacy benefits managers. And state-by-state case law for prescription coverage from employer-sponsored coverage to workers’ comp, like employee protection legislation, also varies widely.

Who’s Got a Headache?

Employers. Though there is federal protection backing drug-free workplace policies, including “zero-tolerance” for specific jobs such as heavy equipment operators, pilots, and surgeons, ever-changing legislation makes it difficult for employers to figure out which end is up. In the meantime, knowledge of state-specific legislation remains key to compliance, with an attitude of managing medical marijuana like any other powerful legal prescription drug that could impair mental capacity a logical choice: Accommodate the needs of injured workers – but uphold a safe work environment, as always. ANS Solutions Medical Cost Containment Programs are the only end to end pharmaceutical cost containment programs in the industry that genuinely put the patient first, while minimizing the cost of settlement in large loss workers’ comp claims.

 

ASansAbout the Author:  Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit http://ans-solutions.com/.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/medical-marijuana-and-the-workers-compensation-conundrum-part-1/

Are Primary Care Physicians Leaving Opioid Deaths to Chance?

A recently released study from the Journal of Addiction Medicine has uncovered an alarming trend. Patients with opioid addiction, also referred to as opioid use disorder (OUD), experience an alarmingly high death rate – one 10 times higher than those not suffering opioid addiction. Not surprisingly, the study has raised some tough questions about the existing treatment infrastructure, and the system’s failure to identify and aid such at-risk individuals.

The Sobering Stats

Using electronic health records from a major university healthcare system from more than 2,500 patients ranging in age from 18 to 64, all identified as having an OUD, 465 deaths were observed during the eight-year period studied, 2006-2014. Drug overdose and disorder was the leading cause of death (19.8%), with deceased patients commonly experiencing other substance abuse disorders (tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, cocaine). Other causes included cardiovascular disease (17.4%), cancer (16.8%) and infectious disease (13.5%, of which 12% had hepatitis C). Alcohol abuse and hepatitis C were identified as primary markers. Compared to the general population, the deceased were more likely to be male (41.7% vs 31.6%), uninsured (87.1% vs 51.3%), and older at the time of initial OUD diagnosis (48.4 vs 39.8 years).

Unintended Effects

Though health care reforms (Federal Mental Health Parity, Addiction Equity Act, and the Affordable Care Act) were intended to lead to an expansion of services for substance abuse disorders in primary care, shifting them from previously isolated treatment centers, there appears to be a significant portion of the population slipping through the cracks. This suggests multiple issues within the current healthcare delivery system in identifying and addressing patients battling addiction:

  • Ignorance of the true risks of opioid abuse and corresponding treatments.
  • A lack of timely and sufficient screening for identifying patients with addiction.
  • Identification of addiction issues too late to provide appropriate/effective interventions.
  • A lack of addiction specialists on-site, as well a as a lack of outside resources for treatment.

The healthcare industry must find a better way to identify and treat patients suffering substance abuse disorders – before they pay the ultimate price. Clinicians in the primary healthcare setting could be a driving force – provided they receive proper training and assistance. For the worker, an effective pharmacotherapy review program ensures that recommended prescription treatment plans are necessary and appropriate and can help eliminate the potential for addiction.

This was originally posted on http://ans-solutions.com/are-primary-care-physicians-leaving-opioid-deaths-to-chance/

How Technology Is Shaping The Workers’ Compensation Industry

The technology now used within today’s workers’ comp industry is remarkable compared to what was available just a few decades prior. A dominant component of advocacy, claims, and treatment, technology is helping employers and insurers work the bugs out of the process, producing amazing results and the promise of even more unbelievable advancements on the horizon…

How is Technology Reshaping the Workers Compensation Industry?

  • Paper Falls by the Wayside
    • NOW: Endless forms and lost paperwork are no longer, replaced by automated forms, electronic signatures and correspondence that is both faster and easily trackable.
    • LATER: Lengthy, written legalese explanations will be replaced by clearer video demonstrations. Avatars, virtual assistants, and chat will become more commonplace.
  • “Smart” Tech Takes Over
    • NOW: Smartphones and mobile devices empower injured workers, offering personal claims reporting, teledoctor consultations and referrals, status and payment checks, virtual correspondence examiners/case managers, and easy access to information via chat/messaging. This faster reporting and assessment speeds treatment, lowering pain severity and costs, and boosting network penetration.
    • LATER: Wearable Tech will become increasingly common in the workplace, from high-tech safety vests and helmets to watches that identify fatigue, repetitive motions, and even alert employees of dangerous situations. For the injured, mobile self-service tools will encourage a more active role in recovery and return-to-work, and the introduction of digital wallets will offer more convenient access to prescriptions.
  • Automation Moves Things Along
    • NOW: Triggered by specific claims events, automated correspondence speeds the process with real-time text/email notifications, boosting productivity and claimant satisfaction.
    • LATER: Tech driven by “empathetic” artificial intelligence will aid claimants, further reducing workloads.
  • Video Trumps Phone Communication
    • NOW: Employers, claims professionals, nurses, and attorneys can more easily communicate remotely and interactively.
    • LATER: The transition to a more personal video telepresence will boost efficiency and improve interactions, making them more personable.
  • Analytics Provide Greater Insight
    • NOW: Predictive analysis through text mining is granting ever-faster access to previously unknown variables, identifying cost triggers (opioid use, comorbidities), and unearthing previously unidentified information.
    • LATER: Prescriptive analytics will come into play, implementing new tech that prescribes successful and actionable intervention techniques.

Exciting Times, Amazing Opportunities
The industry and employers are capitalizing on this wave of technological change. When was the last time you initiated change in your workers’ compensation medical cost containment strategy? ANS Solutions’ streamlined Pharmacotherapy Review program has a proven track record for improving efficiency, reducing costs by over 25% with a success ratio of 94%, yielding a guaranteed return-on-investment of 20-to-1 through our Guarantee Program. Centered around maximizing treatment outcomes for injured workers, our unique, multi-faceted approach delivers cost-effective, proven treatment solutions that make a lasting, positive impact on the overall employee workers’ comp experience. Blaze a new trail in this innovative era. Contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/how-technology-is-shaping-the-workers-compensation-industry/

The ER and Opioids

A common thread has been found in opioid addiction, winding its way from the ER and into homes across the nation. Beginning as a single prescription for a minor issue or unexpected injury, ER physicians are inadvertently rolling the dice and chancing long-term addiction in their quest to simply relieve pain, when there could be better alternatives.

How Commonly are Opioids Tossed-Out in the ER?

Medical researchers studied hundreds of thousands of Medicare-paid ER admissions nationwide, and uncovered a surprising trend in standard approaches to treating pain. Within the same facility, patients discharged with opioid scripts ranged from 7% on the miserly end, to 24% with heavy-handed prescribers. A wide difference in pain management, with similarly disparate results: Patients, who by the luck of the draw were seen by heavy-handed prescribers, were found 30% more likely to become long-term users.

Do Prescription Strength & Amount Play a Role?

A broad variation was also seen in strength and amount, with some physicians prescribing half the dose as others, and showing similar results: A 30% greater chance of long-term use with high-dosages, versus cautious prescription.

Who Was More Likely to Return to the Hospital?

No evidence was found of patients of low-prescribing physicians returning for handout. High prescribers, on the other hand, saw an increase in returning patients suffering opioid-related complications ranging from falls and broken bones to overdoses.

Why the Seemingly Haphazard Prescription?

Because pain treatment is largely improvisational, and often a result of learning by example during observational years, the major issue appears to be lack of protocol and best practices. Where these do not exist, physician adherence to guidelines is poor. Sadly, the reliance on these informal treatment procedures puts public health at risk.

How Can We Empower Physicians and Protect Patients in Need of Relief?

In order to address this epidemic and its deleterious health and financial effects, a collaborative approach is essential, however the doctor’s role is pivotal to keeping excessive prescribing in-check while still managing the pain of those most in need. Broad spectrum and individualized strategies, those that are scientifically-backed and with a reputation for efficacy, are essential to improving patient outcomes without opioids. Even more pivotal, however, are honest, face-to-face discussions between healthcare providers and the industry, be it the FDA or insurance regime, imparting such wisdom to physicians to the benefit of the patient. Post-treatment observation and evaluation must be ongoing, to ensure successful, appropriate treatment and full recovery. And this proven, team-based approach exists with ANS Solutions Pharmacotherapy Review. Won’t you follow the path to a brighter future? Contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/the-er-and-opioids/

The Position of Workers Compensation in 2017

With the election of a new president who is ushering in a new era for the government, the trickle-down effect to the workers’ compensation industry just might sweep you off your feet. Prepare yourself with the industry knowledge you need, and avoid being overtaken by the tsunami…

The 2017 Workers’ Compensation Industry Issues to Watch:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
    Like a rogue wave, changes to the ACA may pop-up with little notice. These changes will influence the industry, including claims frequency, claims shifting, and cost shifting if/when private insurance is lost by injured workers, potentially shifting the industry back into the role of “medical insurance for the uninsured.” Preparing for engagement and rapid response to proposed legislation will remain integral as ACA changes are ironed-out in the coming year.
  • Nationwide Physician Shortages
    America is projected to be short an estimated 12,000 to 31,000 primary care physicians by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Surgeons are also expected to be in short supply. Though effects will vary based on geographic location, coupled with population growth, the aging Baby Boom population, Affordable Care Act instability, and the nationwide opioid crisis, this single phenomena could converge in a myriad of issues within the workers comp industry.
  • Changes to the Workforce
    As the economic current in the U.S. changes, the manufacturing industry may re-emerge, detracting from what is currently a service-based economy. The mobile workforce will also continue to evolve, such as remote and telecommuting positions. Workforce changes aren’t simply labor-related, however, the aging American workforce across the country will also play a large role.
  • Prescription Drug Abuse
    The overuse and abuse of prescriptions drugs, particularly opioids, continues to be a turbulent issue in the industry, driving workers’ comp costs and leaving opposing forces facing-off at a line in the sand. As federal and state lawmakers continue to bandage this issue across the medical industry, claims management teams and attorneys will need to move forward in addressing this issue in claims, monitoring prescriptions, recommending “drug contracts,” and better engaging with physicians regarding the risks of abuse, where permitted. On the flipside of the drug abuse coin, the consequences of injured workers medical marijuana scripts influencing on-the-job risks will continue to be a sticky wicket.
  • Profit & Loss Scenarios
    Though the workers’ comp industry saw their first underwriting profits in 2013, the trend is not expected to continue. Falling rates and increasing exposures, particularly over the long term, point to a negative outlook overall, with combined ratios of 100% projected for the coming year. Medical providers still continue to increase reimbursement rates to offset costs from lackluster Medicare and Medicaid payments, and medical and pharmaceutical advancements increase the risk of loss. Maintaining proper reserves, conducting timely settlement reviews, and utilizing appropriate resources over the course of the year will be key.

Make Progress in Managing Risks & Costs
No matter how fast the tide rushes in, ground yourself in facing this year’s obstacles with positive change, putting yourself in the best position to avoid being washed out in the chaos. With the transparent, mutually beneficial workers compensation cost containment services of ANS Solutions and our medical cost containment strategies, you can support both financial savings and positive outcomes, with a program that actively engages workers compensation patients with a positive experience, gaining unmatched results via true, face-to-face interactions between all involved parties for a complete team approach to care. Ride the wave of the future, contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Sources:

http://www.wci360.com/news/article/how-to-fix-the-primary-care-physician-shortage

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/15-things-to-know-about-the-physician-shortage.html

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/the-position-of-workers-compensation-in-2017/