End Incentives For Addictive Pills

We have known for years that pharmaceutical companies’ claims opioid painkillers were only minimally addictive were not true. Prescriptions for them handed out freely before the truth was known resulted in untold numbers of Americans becoming hooked — and sometimes dying of overdoses.

Yet some financial incentives encouraging health care professionals to prescribe opiates remain in place, according to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. They may be widespread, he believes.

“The whole (health care) system incentivizes prescription of opiates, which is one of the reasons why we have had the proliferation of pills” in West Virginia, Morrisey told our reporter.

Morrisey, who has taken a leadership role in the battle against substance abuse in West Virginia, is taking to the national stage to battle the problem.

He and attorneys general in seven other states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, are cooperating in a project to convince insurance companies and health care providers to abandon incentives for prescribing opiate painkillers. The officials hope to shift financial incentives to encourage use of alternatives to addictive painkillers.

There is hope. “There are some insurers who are forward thinking and are trying to change their policies as a way to limit the number of addictive pills that are being prescribed and dispensed,” Morrisey commented. The challenge is to spread that attitude throughout the insurance and health care communities.

Let us hope Morrisey and the other attorneys general can use the bully pulpit to change the situation. If that fails, they should be ready to recommend their state legislatures adopt policies that can provide additional encouragement for insurers and health care professionals to do what they must know is the right thing.

COMMENTS