Aside from the social costs of losing loved ones to the epidemic, opioid misuse results in significant economic impacts, including social delinquency, medical waste, and loss of economic productivity. The downhill spiral continues, but the emergence of new tools for implementation in pharmacies holds promise to aid intervention in the opioid-abuse crisis.

The first step in stemming the opioid-abuse tide is a proactive approach to early detection of at-risk patients, who often are prescribed legal opioid prescriptions for pain relief. Pharmacists’ use of workflow and databases while reviewing prescriptions and disease states often points to possible opioid abuse, and data barriers can be overcome by promoting data sharing within consortiums of all payers in a geographic area. This simple step allows data sharing and reduces the likelihood of redundant prescriptions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association offers subscriptions to various prescription-drug monitoring programs to help pharmacists keep abreast of the databases and technology trends integral to the opioid-abuse issue.

Advanced analytics are coming into play to combat the opioid crisis. For example, technologies such as DRG AdaptiveRx tracks individuals within member organizations who are at high risk for opioid abuse. Also, simple management programs include lists of members who might need additional care or supportive touch points and track prescribers who might not be following best-practice guidelines for prescribing opioids.   

The National Community Pharmacists Association recommends the following opportunities for pharmacies to engage in the opioid crisis: expand consumer access to naloxone; establish limits on maximum-day supply for certain controlled substances; expand electronic prescribing of controlled substances by mandating its use where feasible; increase healthcare-provider education by emphasizing a verification infrastructure with minimal administrative burdens; increase the use of and access to medication-assisted treatment; and expand the practitioner eligibility for Drug Addiction Treatment Act waivers, including pharmacists.

Claim reviews can also play a large role in pharmacies that are engaged in supporting the ability of care managers to work with members by providing opioid education for patients about to undergo surgical procedures, administering opioid-risk screening tools, following up on member adherence to chronic-pain treatment plans, or providing medication-assisted opioid-treatment plans.

Moreover, HMS, a healthcare company that delivers a broad range of solutions in the industry, reported that using data analytics in conjunction with technology to combat this epidemic is the only practical way to lessen the burden we are experiencing in healthcare today.

The opioid epidemic is a national health concern and one of our most challenging healthcare problems. By applying data and technology solutions, pharmacies have the opportunity to engage and lead others to positively affect the human consequences of this addiction problem and reduce the economic costs of the epidemic.

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