Opioid prescriptions got shorter in 2017


Use of opioids was down among enrollees of all types of payers in 2017, while the use of drugs to treat opioid dependence went up for three of the four payer categories, according to pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts.

The days’ worth of opioids dispensed per person per year was down 16.6% from 2016 to 2017 for enrollees with plans on the health exchanges received managed by Express Scripts. Medicaid patients received 16% fewer days’ worth, patients with commercial plans received 10.3% fewer days’ worth, and Medicare patients received 4.9% fewer days’ worth, Express Scripts said in its 2017 Drug Trend Report, which was based on data for 34.3 million members of pharmacy benefits plans the company administers.

Change in drug use from 2016 to 2017 by insurance type
Health exchange enrollees, however, were the only group out of the four to also receive fewer days’ worth – 10.6% fewer – of drugs used to treat opioid dependence. Use of such drugs rose by 8.5% among those in commercial plans, 18.3% for Medicaid patients, and 23.1% in Medicare enrollees.

Plans that participated in Express Scripts’ Advanced Opioid Management solution, which was launched in September, experienced “a 60% reduction in the average days’ supply per initial fill, from 18.6 days to just 7.5 days,” according to the report.

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