Aetna puts opioid 'superprescribers' on notice

Medication adherence tool

In an effort to address the root of the opioid abuse crisis, Aetna has notified 931 doctors they prescribe painkillers in the top 1 percent of all doctors in the network, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The “superprescribers” dished out more than 1,500 more painkiller pills than the national average. Prescribing in line with the national average would have resulted in 1.4 million fewer pills dispensed by pharmacists annually, according to the news outlet. Still, as many as 280 million opioid prescriptions are filled annually.

After combing through claims data, Aetna sent notes to outlier doctors who were refilling prescriptions at much higher rates than their peers. The insurer does not want to tell physicians how to practice, but it does hope to show them data on quality of care, which includes prescriptions filled, and let them make the best care decisions from there, a spokesman told the Post.

None of the doctors Aetna sent notes to also belonged to the list of doctors suspected of fraud in opioid prescribing, according to the Post.

Aetna’s decision is the latest in a string of efforts by insurers to curb opioid abuse. Cigna joined forces with the American Society of Addiction Medicine to use claims data to develop measures of the use of pharmacotherapy for opioid abuse and follow-up after withdrawal management.

Blue Shield of California set a goal to reduce opioid prescriptions by 50 percent in a three-year period, and other insurers have hired social workers to work with high-risk members.

- read the Washington Post article