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In recent years, a great deal of attention has been focused on the opioid crisis in the United States. The statistics are staggering. In 2016, there were 42,294 fatalities related to opioid overdoses compared to 37,461 fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents. Of the 42,294 opioid fatalities, more than 40 percent were related to prescription opioids. This means that 16,917 people died due to drugs they got from a prescription.

How does this occur? There are several reasons why prescription drugs account for such a large percentage of the overdoses. In some cases, patients are prescribed drugs where the usage of the drug is not indicated for the injury or illness. In other cases, patients are taking combinations of drugs that can be lethal. Finally, there are cases where the patient becomes dependent on the drug and continues to ask for refills. The doctor continues to authorize the refills creating a situation where the claimant becomes addicted to the opioid.

What can SCMIT do to minimize the possibility of fatal overdoses related to prescription drugs?

SCMIT and Corporate Pharmacy Services, SCMIT's Pharmacy Benefit Provider, have procedures in place to minimize such risks. With SCMIT's agreement, CPS sends letters to medical providers calling their attention to high risk prescription practices. If a claimant is receiving a drug that is not used to treat a current diagnosis, a letter is sent to the doctor inquiring as to why. Other doctors receive letters informing them that certain combinations of drugs are not recommended. This situation often occurs when multiple medical providers are involved in a patient's treatment. The providers are not aware of all of the medications being prescribed by other doctors.

Both the employees and SCMIT can benefit from the employer taking the initiative to address these dangerous situations. Doctors are less likely to be accused of mismanaging the treatment of patients. SCMIT and CPS are less likely to be accused of contributing to an overdose situation if they have put doctors on notice of questionable practices. Most importantly, claimants are less likely to be put in potentially harmful situations involving prescription drugs.

Taking these actions does not guarantee that overdoses will not occur. However, the likelihood of overdoses is certainly less. While others may not focus on opioid usage, SCMIT and CPS will continue to do so in order to be sure that SCMIT claimants receive the appropriate care. Such care will result in the best possible outcome creating a win-win situation for everyone. Cities should monitor all employees for drug usage and partner with an employee assistance program to provide employees with treatment options for abuse.