Is there a future where opioids are no longer the first line of defense against pain? Maybe so, as we see the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association adopting the new CDC guidelines that opioids should not be the first or second treatment options to manage pain (except in the case of cancer and end-of-life care). There are better options available that are cheaper, more effective, less harmful and, most likely, already in people’s medicine cabinets.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be more effective for pain without the harmful side effects of addiction; but do enough people know that? Patients often ask for what they know, and 20 years of marketing campaigns and payment models have shifted the preference to opioids over other pain treatments.
As guidelines are being updated, behaviors are slowly shifting, but what can employers do in the meantime to speed things along for their employees? They can review their benefit designs to ensure they support and encourage the shifting of both provider and patient behaviors. Are alternative therapies to opioids covered and offered first? Do your employees know there are more effective pain remedies that don’t come with an addiction risk? Does your addiction treatment cover medication-assisted treatment? These are just some of the questions you should be asking your carriers and vendor partners to ensure everyone is doing what they can to stem this epidemic and help those who have been affected.