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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
December 13, 2016

Insurer Curbs Opioid Prescriptions

JAMA. 2016;316(22):2349. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.17522

As unintentional opioid overdose deaths skyrocketed 4 years ago in Massachusetts, a private insurer’s utilization review program apparently stemmed the tide of prescription opioid use among its members.

From 2012 to 2013, opioid-related deaths jumped 45% in Massachusetts to 20 deaths per 100 000 residents—about 2.5 times higher than the US average. The state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, stepped in to curb opioid abuse after it discovered that in 2011, 30 000 of its 2.8 million members received new opioid prescriptions for more than a 30-day supply. In addition, a quarter received prescriptions from multiple providers. The insurer’s 2012 program to stop the free flow of opioid prescriptions imposed several requirements on patients and physicians.