With Nation's Physicians, Cigna Addresses Substance Use Disorders
At Cigna, we know that compassion and community efforts help solve problems. Shame and blame do not. That’s why in May 2016, Cigna brought together resources across its medical, behavioral and pharmacy programs to identify ways that the company could harness its physician-partnership model to interrupt the cycle of addiction while assuring that people who have no alternatives to manage their pain retained clinically appropriate access to the remedies prescribed by their doctor.
One key metric in the effort was to reduce opioid use among customers by 25 percent by 2019. We selected 25 percent because this reduction would return customers’ usage of opioids to pre-epidemic levels.
On March 27, 2018, we were pleased to announce that in partnership with more than 1.1 million prescribing clinicians, we had reached our goal of reducing opioid use by 25 percent among customers nearly a year ahead of schedule.
To track against the 25 percent metric, we measured the total volume of opioids being prescribed based on morphine milligram equivalent doses, taking into account the number of pills, the dosing of those pills, as well as the relative strengths of the different opioid medications. We collaborated with physicians, dentists, patient awareness and support organizations in local communities to identify immediate and longer-term approaches that increased safeguards in the opioid prescribing process, enhanced support and counseling, and made it easier to access treatments for substance use disorders.
Finding a long-term solution means modernizing the approach to prevention, treatment and communication regarding substance use disorders. Let’s continue to work together, instead of finding blame, to stop the stigma and identify the right solutions.
We need to think of substance use disorders as a chronic disease. We must help protect those who may be at-risk. For those who already live with a substance use disorder, we need a health care system that supports early detection and prioritizes an integrated, holistic approach to health. This requires a focus on total health – mind and body – so that individuals can stay healthy, saving health care costs.
The lexicon around substance use disorders is riddled with “blame” words like “abuse.” Health care leaders must adopt a new mindset when addressing this epidemic by ending blame to find real solutions that positions substance use disorders as the chronic disease that it is.
Integrate Evidence-Based Treatment
Cigna believes in the need for faster adoption of performance measures that have proven to be effective so that we treat substance use disorders as we treat physical illness. We encourage all providers to adopt the CDC's 2016 guidelines for acute and chronic use of opioids, transition away from high-dose opioids and move toward a comprehensive treatment plan for chronic pain management. We support the adoption of medication-assisted, multidisciplinary substance use disorder treatment programs. Learn more about treatments for substance use disorders.