How do we help address the opioid epidemic in our state? Empower the people on the front lines.
The opioid epidemic in the headlines is not just a national crisis—it’s right here in North Carolina. On average, nearly four people in our state die every day from opioid overdoses.1 In 2015 alone, the cost of deaths due to unintentional overdoses exceeded $1 billion.2 These statistics are not only shocking, they’re unacceptable.
With our three-point plan, we’re tackling the crisis from all sides.
To reduce misuse, we require health care providers to prescribe the safest options available, offer opioid risk screening and education to members, and partner with organizations like the N.C. Medical Board.
We set caps on first-time opioid prescriptions and require authorizations for more powerful medicines.
Effective April 1, 2018, we began limiting first-time prescriptions of short-acting opioids to a seven-day maximum supply. After that first prescription, our members can fill future prescriptions for a larger supply, if appropriate. We also began requiring prior authorization before a member receives a first-time prescription for extended-release opioids. The intent is two-fold: to lower the risk of chronic opioid use and limit the number of unused opioids that can wind up being misused, intentionally or not.
Additionally, we educate high-prescribing providers on best practices and monitor patients who may be using opioids irresponsibly.
We cover several forms of addiction treatment, including a new anti-opioid dependency drug, Sublocade. We provide expanded telehealth options and a 24-hour member help line. We also invest in proven community partners, like Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), that focus on rehabilitation and recovery.
Our efforts with state and federal policymakers, customers, health care providers, the public health community and law enforcement are already paying off. In the first quarter under our new seven-day opioid prescription limit, Blue Cross NC customers obtained about 375,000 fewer doses of opioids than the previous quarter. That’s outstanding progress for just three months.3
Much more work lies ahead. But our commitment to solve this crisis will not waver. Because when we stand up against the opioid epidemic, we’re standing up for all of North Carolina.