by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
Innovative pill formulations offer a new option for battling prescription opioid abuse, explains a recently released video from the Alliance for Patient Access. Along with prevention, education, effective monitoring programs and risk evaluation, abuse-deterrent technology could aid policymakers and physicians in a daunting task: reducing the 16,000 deaths annually that stem from inappropriate use of prescription pain medications. But only if patients have access to these medications when their physician prescribes them.
As “A Prescription for Reducing Opioid Abuse” explains, abuse-deterrent pain pills thwart specific types of abuse, in particular intravenous and intranasal. Their design makes these pills harder to crush or liquefy. Some forms resist abuse by remaining inactive until they reach the stomach or intestines. Other forms contain a substance that counters the effects of the opioid when crushed.
This technology deters people who would inject, snort or dissolve these pills in alcohol for recreational use. Thus, it may work for patients who live with others that might misuse prescription medications – or patients whose spouses are recovering from addiction.
But, the video argues, these medications can be effective only if they’re available to patients. Some insurers require exorbitant cost-sharing for the medications, putting abuse-deterrent formulations out of reach for those who could otherwise benefit from them. For abuse-deterrent technology to help reduce opioid abuse, the video explains, insurers must avoid punishing patients with unmanageable prices. Thus, several states are taking measures to ensure fair access to these medications.
The video’s release coincides with Pain Awareness Month—when patients, clinicians and advocates reflect on the millions of Americans affected by pain. The Alliance for Balanced Pain Management, for instance, will conduct an access survey this month to collect data on people who live with pain and their access to care. Meanwhile, health care practitioners will gather in Las Vegas for the annual national PAINWeek. As reflected by these and other Pain Awareness Month events, patient access to appropriate pain treatment poses complex challenges for policymakers and health care providers alike.