Looking at the state of the opioid epidemic

By Abimbola Farinde, PharmD

Houston Medical Times


Over the last several years there has been increasing focus on the opioid crisis to the point that it now considered to be a national emergency that requires immediate action. The opioid epidemic has permeated many communities across the nation and has touched individuals from all walks of life.  With the growing awareness of the crisis of the opioid epidemic in our society, specific measures are being implemented to curtail the growth of this noted crisis in America which has been linked to numerous overdoses, associated infections, and unintentional deaths.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, the number of deaths resulting from opioid use has increased substantially in comparison to the previous year. Hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies have also experienced the effects of the rise in opioid abuse across this great nation in the form of increased emergency room admissions or the use of opioid reversal agents to save lives that are in jeopardy. There is the growing desire from all three areas to take steps to prevent the misuse of opioid and to assist with increasing access to opioid addiction care.

In the past, many communities have been devastated by the number of unintentional overdoses that have been related to the escalating opioid epidemic and this has ultimately set the stage for action plans to be taken. In an effort to address the alarming rate at which opioids are being abused across America, a handful of health insurers have started to remove the requirement for prior authorization for opioid treatment. While evaluating for the clinical appropriateness of this treatment is important, this process can sometimes hinder or prevent treatment for those that truly require the immediate attention and care.

The overall goal of this measure is to increase access to medication assisted therapy for opioid addiction, and which has the potential to lead to many opioid abusers entering treatment centers for the first time. For individuals those that experience a delay in access to this evidence-based care plan, this can translate into continued use of opioid and the devastating outcomes that can result. If left untreated the rate of intentional deaths attributed to opioid misuse will continue to climb. The removal of the prior authorization requirement for opioid addiction treatment can hopefully be seen as the first step in a series of steps that are designed to control the rise of the opioid issue in America. It is through concerted efforts and collaboration among the public community, medical community, and government that significant changes can be observed to change the course of opioid use and abuse.