I think you’d be surprised at how many federal and state government agencies are a part of the opioid war. As predicted, the CDC’s opioid guidelines are being treated more like regulations than simple guidelines. With the backing of the CDC’s false theories, these agencies are deciding which treatments for pain will be available to patients — and which will label you a criminal. If you’re a pain patient with Medicare, this information will affect you.
A new strategy being developed by Medicare to combat the abuse of opioid pain medication will encourage pharmacists to report physicians who may be prescribing opioids inappropriately. Patients that a pharmacist believes are abusing opioids could also be referred for investigation.
The strategy, which has yet to be finalized, was outlined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week in a 30-page report on the agency’s “Opioid Misuse Strategy.” It has not been widely publicized by CMS or reported in the news media…
I read a story the other day about a pain patient who was reported to his doctor by the pharmacist for buying alcohol with his prescription drugs. But I don’t think it’s news that doctors and pharmacists have also become an extension of the DEA in the opioid war, just like other government agencies.
Here are some excerpts from CMS’s “Opioid Misuse Strategy” report:
Increase the use of evidence-based practices for acute and chronic pain management. Evidence-based practice is an integral part of all of CMS’s priority areas, but expanding the evidence base of effective and alternative treatments for acute and chronic pain is especially vital. CMS stated this priority area specifically to emphasize the need to address the limitations of research that is currently available.
By January 1, 2019, CMS will enforce requirements that the vast majority of prescribers who write prescriptions for Medicare Part D beneficiaries must be enrolled in Medicare or be validly opted out in order for the beneficiaries’ drugs to be covered. This enrollment requirement will allow Medicare to have better oversight of prescriber behaviors and revoke enrollment of providers proven to demonstrate inappropriate behaviors.
The Medicare Part D Opioid Prescriber Summary File, which will build on this Medicare prescriber enrollment requirement, presents information on the individual opioid prescribing rates (for new prescriptions as well as refills) of prescribers of Part D drugs. This public data set will provide information on the number and percentage of prescription claims for opioid drugs, as well as each provider’s name, specialty, state, and zip code. The file can be used to explore the impact of prescribing practices of controlled substances on vulnerable populations.
Finally, through CMS’s Overutilization Monitoring System (OMS), Part D sponsors are provided quarterly reports on high risk beneficiaries and provide CMS with the outcome of their review of each case. Since 2011, the OMS helped sponsors reduce the number of potential opioid overutilizers by 47 percent among Medicare Part D beneficiaries.
Additionally, CMS is addressing the issue of drug diversion by identifying consistent thresholds across programs to flag providers as “high prescribers” and patients as “high utilizers” who may require additional scrutiny.
CMS is in the exploratory phase of identifying metrics to quantify and track progress in each priority area. For priority area 1, metrics are currently under consideration in the following areas:
For prescribers enrolled in Medicare who prescribe Part D drugs:
Percentage of opioid prescriptions:
o Exceeding CDC guideline of 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day
o Exceeding 7 days of treatment
o Written for extended release/long-acting opioids
Percentage with beneficiaries receiving an opioid prescription without other supportive therapies/treatments
Research would also increase the focus on identifying methods for migrating the significant number of chronic pain patients with long standing opioid use to other medications along with alternative modalities. Without initiating other medications at the same time as alternative therapies, these patients may vigorously resist reducing or giving up the opioids that for many years have allowed them to manage their pain at tolerable levels and lead functional lives. The benefit of tolerable pain levels and functional lives may outweigh the risk of opioid use for these patients.
Recognizing its critical role in promoting and reinforcing appropriate treatment approaches, Medicare, Medicaid, and Marketplace plans would cover therapies that are consistent with CMS’s evidentiary standards.
CMS has a number of initiatives underway to increase the use of recommended evidence-based practices for pain management. CMS provides outreach regarding best practices and technical assistance through the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative’s Practice Transformation Networks. CMS has distributed publications on evidence-based prescribing practices to providers, often in coordination with other HHS agencies, including the Office of the Surgeon General.
CMS is also playing a part in expanding the evidence base to identify and support effective nonpharmacologic therapies and additional non-opioid pharmaceuticals. The agency’s key role is to identify services that need more evidence to support coverage by Medicare and other health plans. CMS then collaborates with research-focused HHS agencies, such as NIH, who can concentrate research on these need areas.
The focus of CMS’s immediate efforts under this priority area is twofold. First, identify non-covered treatments that already have sufficient evidence in order to quickly expand coverage of those therapies; for example, for certain common pain conditions, such as chronic lower back pain, CMS is exploring ways to streamline coverage of evidence-supported alternative therapies.
Secondly, educate providers and beneficiaries in order to improve provider utilization of evidence-based treatments and adjust patient expectations appropriately.
CMS’s long term priorities focus on broadening coverage and increasing utilization of therapies that are [might be] proven to be effective. This approach will accelerate identification and implementation of effective alternative treatments for pain.
What happens when access to the only adequate treatments for pain are reduced and removed before other “effective” therapies are found? Like, what happens when Republicans repeal Obamacare before having something comparable to replace it with? I think the term “chaos” fits.
“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today.” – Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Really? If more people suffer from untreated chronic pain than suffer from addiction, which is the epidemic? If more people die from suicide than from drug overdoses, which is the epidemic?
Many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and their families have been affected by the consequences of opioid misuse and opioid use disorder, commonly referred to as addiction. Given the growing body of evidence on the risks of misuse, highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) new guidelines for prescribing opioids that was released earlier this year, and the Administration’s commitment to combatting the opioid epidemic, CMS is outlining our agency’s strategy and the array of actions underway to address the national opioid misuse epidemic. The actions outlined here do not include CMS’s vision for the treatment of cancer and hospice patients.
See, those who suffer from cancer, or are under hospice care, deserve to have their pain treated, while everyone else can just suffer. Thanks, CDC.
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Of course comments are closed. They don’t want anyone to invade their bubble. But Medicare is on Facebook, along with the agency that oversees it, HHS:
My comment posted today on Medicare’s Facebook page:
The CDC’s opioid regulations, and Medicare’s adoption of them, are forcing tens of millions of Americans to find alternative treatments for pain, like marijuana and kratom. How much savings does that amount to for Medicare?
What happens when you reduce and remove access to the only successfully proven treatment for pain before equally successful alternative treatments are available? How smart is it to repeal before you replace?
Many pain patients are unable to find safe and adequate replacements for opioids. Some will be forced into the underground drug market. Some will choose suicide. Most will survive, but their lives won’t be worth living. Many will just hunker down, suffer quietly, and wait to die — shamed by the opioid war into believing they deserve to suffer.
Has Medicare/CMS identified metrics to quantify and track the destruction being caused by it and the CDC? Like the increase in addiction rates, poisonings, and suicides. The increase in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, acetaminophen and NSAIDs, sugar, and other legal, over-the-counter drugs and supplements. The increase in domestic violence, family break-ups, obesity, kidney and liver disease, disability claims, and homelessness. The increase in anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Once the government cures addiction (with money and good intentions), what is it going to do about the epidemic of intractable pain? The epidemic of suicides and gun violence? The epidemic of Americans being unable to trust even one government agency in this country?