AMCP Foundation’s Symposium Gathers Diverse Stakeholders to Address Issues of Opioid Misuse and Abuse

National Harbor, Md., Oct. 5, 2016 — Improvements to opioid prescribing, increasing the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose and expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid-use disorders were among the many suggestions to come out of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Foundation 6th Annual Research Symposium, “Balancing Access and Use of Opioid Therapy.”

More than 125 participants attended the full-day event on Oct. 3 to discuss how health plans, providers, advocacy groups, payers and other stakeholders can work together to ensure that patients have appropriate access to opioid pain therapies, while preventing their abuse.

“The statistics are grave: Deaths from opioid misuse and abuse exceed those from traffic accidents each year,” says Paula J. Eichenbrenner, CAE, Executive Director of the AMCP Foundation. “The Foundation Symposium examined the present situation – but more importantly, we looked to the future, to the solutions that promise the greatest impact in stemming this epidemic, and to the research gaps that must be addressed to continue progress.”

Nearly 2 million Americans in 2014 suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioids, and an additional 586,000 people were addicted to heroin, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Opioids were involved in 61 percent of the more than 47,000 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, costs to treat opioid addiction have skyrocketed. Health insurers’ payments for opioid dependency or abuse increased 1,375 percent from 2011 to 2015 — from roughly $32 million to nearly $446 million, according to a new study by FAIR Health, Inc. And from 2007 to 2014, insurers saw a more than 3,200 percent increase in claims containing an opioid dependence diagnosis.

“This is a fight that will require a concerted, long-term effort from many sectors of our society,” says AMCP CEO and Foundation Chair Susan A. Cantrell, RPh, CAE. “Because managed care plays a central role in such areas as population health management, appropriate medication selection, care coordination, and health care provider education, we are uniquely positioned to help address this complicated problem.”

Presenting the federal government’s perspective was symposium keynote speaker Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, who served in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy where he co-led the development of the Obama Administration’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan.

He described recent priorities from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Among them, curbing inappropriate prescribing of high-dose opioids for conditions that don’t benefit from the therapies. Jones suggested that health plans could help support “academic detailing” programs, in which representatives meet with physicians to discuss changing high-risk prescribing practices.

“Improving prescribing is a critical component,” says Jones, who is now Director, HHS Division of Science Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning. “Early identification and engagement in appropriate levels of treatment are critical in preventing morbidity and mortality.”

Other panelists throughout the day examined the issue from various angles. Topics addressed included:

  • Patient Perspectives and Access to Appropriate Therapy;
  • Prescriber Perspectives, Challenges & Responsibilities;
  • Opioid Use Monitoring Measures; and
  • Managed Care and Health Plan Perspectives.

Recommended for consideration were thought-provoking strategies, such as providing patients with training on how to better describe pain levels; requiring providers to participate in prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) as a condition of being in a network; reducing the quantity of initial opioid prescription dispensed with little or no copay; and supporting drug disposal programs. Other proposals included focusing on prevention and education; minimizing early exposure; engaging in provider surveillance to identify bad actors; identifying and supporting at-risk populations; and better managing afflicted populations.

The symposium was moderated by Brett Norman, Health Policy Editor at POLITICO magazine, and took place just prior to the AMCP Nexus 2016 conference, Oct. 3-6, in National Harbor, Md. For more information, visit

About the AMCP Foundation
Established in 1990, the 501(c)3 nonprofit AMCP Foundation exists to advance collective knowledge and insights on major issues associated with the practice of pharmacy in managed health care settings. By facilitating innovative research initiatives and providing educational opportunities to learn about managed care pharmacy, the AMCP Foundation invests in the future of managed care. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP). Visit