Skip to main content

Cigna Aims to Cut Opioid Use by 25%

News  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   June 14, 2016

The insurer says it will limit the quantity of painkillers when appropriate and treat substance abuse like other chronic diseases.

The insurer Cigna has set a goal to cut opioid use among its customers by 25% over three years, which would restore usage to 2006 levels.

The announcement of this goal follows a flurry of activity aimed at curbing the country's opioid epidemic, including recommendations issued earlier this year by the CDC for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain.

To achieve its goal, Cigna says it will tap its prevention, wellness, and chronic disease management programs, and work with clients, physicians, and others to increase prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

The insurer says it will also:

  • Encourage the rapid adoption of the new CDC guidelines on opioid use;
  • Encourage prescribing opioids for the shortest time possible to treat acute pain;
  • Talk with patients about all options and risks before beginning long-term therapy; and
  • Support efforts to require prescribers to check state Prescription Drug Management Program databases when prescribing more than a 21-day supply of a painkiller such as oxycodone or morphine

Further, Cigna says it will limit the quantity of painkillers when appropriate and explore additional controls for high-risk customers identified by Cigna's customer data.

Treatment, Awareness

Treating substance abuse like other chronic diseases is another effort, with the insurer making sure that customers have access to a comprehensive treatment program that includes medication-assisted therapy, which combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders.

More broadly, Cigna says it will aim to raise awareness about substance abuse, work with lawmakers, and encourage action from others in the health insurance industry.

Other insurers are also taking steps against opioid abuse.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said in February that a new steering committee will develop recommendations on how Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies can collaborate with healthcare professionals, government officials, and communities across the country to combat opioid abuse and prevent addiction.

Anthem, Inc.'s affiliated health plans have launched a program that enrolls high-risk members in individual and employer-sponsored plans in the Pharmacy Home Program, which limits drug coverage to one member-chosen home pharmacy.

In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids, and at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, reports the CDC.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.