September 2019

Reducing opioid use with the help of integrated dental, medical and pharmacy data

As a prescriber of opioids, dentists play an important role in addressing the opioid epidemic. As part of a long-standing commitment to help curb opioid use disorder and overdose, Cigna has collaborated with dentists to increase awareness of:

  • The dangers of opioids.
  • The greater risk of misuse and addiction among teenagers.
  • Safer non-opioid options to manage acute dental pain.

For customers who have their dental, medical and pharmacy benefits through Cigna, this combined data plays a key role. Cigna is harnessing dental and pharmacy data and analytics to help drive prevention, early intervention, and create long-term solutions in collaboration with providers.

An analysis of three years of Cigna customers with dental and pharmacy benefits revealed a 19 percent reduction in opioid (morphine milligram equivalent) prescriptions and 9 percent reduction for opioid days’ supply across dental specialists in the Cigna network.1 These findings demonstrate that Cigna's dental providers are embracing the CDC’s recommendations [PDF] to help reduce opioid misuse, including to routinely prescribe NSAIDs for acute pain or prescribe opioids for three days or less to manage acute pain from dental procedures (e.g. wisdom tooth extraction, root canal, etc.).

“Analyzing integrated pharmacy and dental data is an important step in helping us understand patterns of opioid prescriptions among dental providers,” said Dr. David Hamlin, Regional Dental Director, Cigna. “Through the power of data, collaboration, and education, we can identify opportunities to help improve treatment, intervene early, and support dental providers and customers in new ways.”

The recent data analysis of existing claims is just the start of what can be achieved through data. In addition to sharing insights with the dental community, including at the 2019 annual International Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference, Cigna will continue to evaluate what drives opioid prescriptions for specific populations and build tools to monitor safety across a network of over 146,000 dental providers.2 Cigna is also exploring research and partnerships with technology companies to evaluate the role of digital pain management.

“We work closely with providers and give them the information, resources, and tools they need to help their patients manage pain in the safest way possible,” said Dr. Doug Nemecek, Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health, Cigna. “One opportunity is informing treatment plans through data-driven insights. This is true for both medical and dental pain management, and as a result we are reducing reliance on opioids – a win for patients, families, and communities.”

For more information about Cigna’s commitment to reducing opioid use and efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, please visit Cigna: Fighting the Opioid Epidemic. To learn more about Cigna's efforts to improve oral health visit Cigna Dental DNA.

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  1. Internal reporting based on 2015-2018 Cigna pharmacy claims and Cigna dental membership data.
  2. Total number of dental providers contracted with Cigna Dental as of June 2019. Data gathered across Cigna DPPO and Cigna Dental Care (DHMO) networks and is subject to change.

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