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Pharma doubles down on opioid solutions

September 28, 2017
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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On Wednesday, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis met for the third time in Washington, and heard from a number of drug manufacturers. For its part, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) pledged its support for emerging opioid initiatives.

“Today PhRMA is announcing for the first time our support to limit the supply of opioids to seven days for acute pain management,” said Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO, at the meeting.

He called the announcement an unprecedented step for the pharma industry and “the right thing to do.” A number of states have enacted laws limiting acute opioid prescriptions or have leveraged state medical boards to drive similar prescribing policies.

However, Ubl also said that the progress can be undermined if insurance-coverage barriers are not addressed—a point that is not lost on healthcare stakeholders. In fact, ProPublica recently reported that, according to Medicare data, managed care plans are far more likely to cover opioids with lower patient out-of-pocket costs than to cover treatments with less risk of addiction, such as physical therapy or lidocaine or buprenorphine patches for pain.

The CEO of Alkermes—makers of Vivitrol (naltrexone)—Richard Pops, was also in attendance and made a point of noting that a variety of treatments for opioid use disorder are available and that some patients might not be ready for naltrexone. His statement echoes a new attitude among pharma companies to work collectively toward solutions.

Last week, the White House commission chairman, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, separately announced that 13 pharma manufacturers had agreed to share data in partnership with federal health agencies to an effort to get new drug products to market to treat opioid use disorder and to create new pain therapies that are non-addictive.

 

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