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Stopping addiction at the prescription: Canadian insurance company launches opioid management program


Canadian insurance company launches new program in effort to stop opioid addiction before it start

Manulife's program limits an opioid prescription to just a week and makes sure doctors start with short-acting drugs

The new program comes amid an opioid crisis in B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Canadian insurance company hopes stopping over-prescription of opioids will help reduce the number of overdoses and addictions.

Manulife has launched a program to make sure doctors and pharmacists aren’t handing out too many pills.

The opioid management program works in two steps: First, by limiting first-time opioid prescriptions to just one week’s supply. The second step is to prescribe short-acting opioids before moving on to a long-acting drug.

Related: B.C. deaths from illicit drug overdose at another all-time high

“By limiting the number of opioids that are brought home, hopefully we’re eliminating somebody finding the opioids and selling the opioids, really by limiting it to seven days, the first prescription, then not wasting 21 days worth of drug and that drug actually hitting the street,” program head Kim MacFarlane explains.

She adds discussions have also taken place with pharmacy associations so they know what to do.

“From a member perspective, there’s really nothing that they have to do. It’s really guarding against, sort of, a natural tendency among physicians to write a 30-day prescription,” MacFarlane says. “In many scenarios, the main they’re trying to manage may be a short duration, acute period, and that’s where this program really targets and responds to meet that need.”

Related: BC Health officer calls for urgent decriminalization of illicit drug possession

The program comes amid an ongoing opioid crisis in B.C. There were more than 1,500 fatal overdoses last year, most of which were traced back to fentanyl.

The company says it also contacts people who it worries may be over using, however, it has calculated how much the new program will save Manulife or businesses that offer benefits to workers.

“I actually don’t know that we’ve done analysis of what the cost savings would be on the program. Our focus, like I said, it’s been primarily on how ‘What can we do to help prevent opioid misuse and abuse?'”

Manulife also provides a Narcotics Risk Management program. Through this initiative, the company reviews individual cases where someone is prescribed higher doses of opioids and narcotics and will reach out as part of a “risk management protocol.”