Committee Evaluates Impact of Abuse Deterrent Opioid Analgesics

Raleigh, NC- The House Select Committee on Step Therapy met for its third meeting today to discuss the impact, effectiveness, and prevalence of abuse deterrent opioid analgesics. The Committee met two times prior to March 23 to consider fail-first policies, better known as step therapy, that are sometimes required by insurers to gain access to drugs prescribed by doctors. While studying step therapy protocols, the Committee was also tasked with looking at the impact step therapy has on access to abuse-deterrent opioid analgesics. The Committee will meet once more to debrief on both topics.

The Committee heard testimony from the following individuals:

  • Fred Brason, Project Lazarus
  • Dr. Bob Wilson, Pain Society of the Carolinas
  • Captain Eric Smith, Wilson Police Department
  • Mike Cannon, Father of Overdose Victim
  • Estay Green, Director of Pharmacy Programs, Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina
  • Thomas Friedman, North Carolina State Health Plan Representative
  • Judy S. Billings, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation

Fred Brason of Project Lazarus gave a presentation on the differences between opioids and abuse-deterrent opioids. A demonstration by Mr. Brason showed the committee that abuse deterrent opioids are harder to crush, snort, and dissolve based on their chemical makeup. Abuse deterrent opioids have contributed to the decline in abuse by certain methods, and a decline in drug diversion. Mr. Brason also showed the societal benefit of these drugs: $1 billion cost savings in medical care, criminal justice spending, and workplace productivity.

Rep. Lewis said the following about the meeting:

“Prescription drug abuse in North Carolina is an epidemic. We are faced with higher healthcare costs, lost work productivity, and a bleeding criminal justice system because abuse runs rampant in many of our communities. I want to thank the committee for not only the thoughtful debate today, but also the concern and duty many of them feel to tackle such an important public health and safety issue. Our children’s lives are at stake, and we must think creatively in order to reduce drug addiction, restrict access to abuse prone substances, help those who struggle with addiction to thrive in our state.”

The Committee was authorized by the Speaker and was charged with the following: The Committee is tasked with studying the prescription benefit management tool known as “step therapy” to assess the impact on patients’ access to care. The Committee shall analyze the costs and benefits of the utilization of “step therapy,” including any potential negative consequences for patients and providers.  The Committee shall also assess the impact “step therapy” has on access to abuse-deterrent opioid analgesics. Documents from the March 23rd meeting can be found on the North Carolina General Assembly website.

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