September 2019

Customers new to opioids get safer start

Drug abuse can become ongoing and compulsive. In fact, it only takes 10 days. With just a 10-day prescription, one in five people have an increased risk of opioid addiction.1

The Cigna Safe Opioid Starts (SOS) program attempts to help prevent this tough situation from taking root.

Cigna is intensifying our commitment to curtail the opioid abuse epidemic, and setting a new goal to reduce overdoses among our commercial customers in key markets by 25% by December 2021.2 In striving to reach this goal, we now offer even stronger programs to help address and reduce opioid misuse. The Cigna Safe Opioid Starts program is an outreach to customers new to opioid medications. It arms them with education about the seriousness of opioids and the need for proper use, storage and disposal.

Starting in October this year, each Cigna customer who fills a first-time prescription for an opioid medication will receive an educational letter and flyer. These materials explain that:

  • Opioids are powerful – They can be very effective for managing pain, but must be used exactly as prescribed.
  • Opioids can lead to dependence – They can cause a number of side effects and, for some, can be habit-forming. Identified customers are encouraged to work with their doctor to find the safest and most effective pain management treatment.
  • Opioids require safe storage and disposal – They must be stored with great care. Any remaining product must be disposed of responsibly.

This educational outreach encourages customers to dispose of any opioid medications they are not using. Leftover prescription opioids make an easy target for abuse. These medications may enter a household with good intentions - to relieve a person’s pain. However, in the wrong hands, they could be destined for personal abuse (possibly by a minor) or sale to others. Customers are advised to visit www.FDA.gov/DrugDisposal to learn more about how to get rid of medication safely. For example, individuals can find their own community drug take-back program or pharmacy mail-back program.

The Cigna Safe Opioid Starts program also complements other efforts underway at Cigna to help clients and customers prevent opioid misuse. This includes the actions demonstrated by our utilization and formulary management programs, which work to promote customer safety. For example, starting in January 2020, there will be a new three-day quantity limit on coverage for opioids prescribed for dental-related reasons. Cigna’s Narcotic Therapy Management Program also engages our network of providers. The program works to identify unsafe opioid levels, abnormal prescribing patterns and related use with risky non-opioid medications. Letters then mail to all prescribers involved in the customer’s risk profile.

For more about Cigna’s actions to reduce opioid overdoses, please review these resources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term” Opioid Use - United States 2006–2015.” March 17, 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6610a1.htm>.
  2. Initial focus will be on the following targeted U.S. communities where a sizable number of Cigna commercial customers reside and where there are higher incidences of overdose. These include: Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC.

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Health benefit plans vary, but in general to be eligible for coverage a drug must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), prescribed by a health care professional, purchased from a licensed pharmacy and medically necessary. Some plans require you to use an in-network pharmacy for prescriptions to be covered. Coverage is subject to any plan deductible, copayment and/or coinsurance requirements. Product availability may vary by location and plan type and is subject to change. All group health insurance policies and health benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For costs and details of coverage, contact a Cigna representative. Group medical and pharmacy plans are insured and/or administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company or its affiliates. Policy forms: OK - HP-APP-1 et al., OR - HP-POL38 02-13, TN - HP-POL43/HC-CER1V1 et al. All pictures are used for illustrative purposes only. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

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