Cigna reduces opioid use

Cigna, in partnership with more than 1.1 million prescribing clinicians, alleges it has achieved a 25% reduction in opioid use among its customers, reaching this key metric one year ahead of its ambitious initial goal.  The broad based effort meaningfully contributes to curbing the opioid epidemic, which has taken thousands of lives, sidelined millions of workers and diverted billions of dollars in the United States.

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 t 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 its customers by 25% by 2019.  The company selected 25% because this reduction would return customers’ use of opioids to pre-epidemic levels.

To track against the 25% metric, Cigna 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.  Cigna 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.