Implementation of an Opioid Management Initiative by a State Medicaid Program

AUTHORS: Maria M. Garcia, Michael C. Angelini, Tara Thomas, Kimberly Lenz, Paul Jeffrey



BACKGROUND: The utilization of prescription opioids has increased over the last 2 decades. Associated with this is the misuse of prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes. Medicaid programs have struggled with developing strategies that balance best practice models, appropriate utilization, and reduction in costs associated with the opioid medication class. 

OBJECTIVE: To examine the impact of a 2-year stepwise initiative to reduce utilization and therapy costs of long-acting opioid analgesics (LAOA) by addressing issues of high dose, daily dose, and preferred therapeutic alternatives.  

METHODS: Utilization data from the Massachusetts Medicaid pharmacy program for LAOAs were reviewed and compared for 2 time periods. The calendar year prior to the initiative, 2002, was used as a base year and represents a time period when there were no restrictions in place for members to obtain long-acting opioids. The calendar year 2005 was the comparison year representing a time period after the multiple steps of the initiative had been implemented. A retrospective claims-based analysis was performed to determine the impact of restrictions on LAOAs, defined as brand and generic versions of oxycodone ER, morphine ER, methadone, and fentanyl transdermal system. The primary measure was the percentage of change of unique utilizers, paid claims, and average daily dose for each LAOA following the implementation of the opioid management initiative. Secondary measures included a cost analysis. RESULTS: Compared with 2002, the overall number of LAOA unique utilizers declined 17.8% (P < 0.0001), and the overall number of claims declined by 4.1% (P < 0.0001), while Medicaid pharmacy benefit member enrollment remained relatively stable. Average daily dose declined in methadone and morphine ER and increased in oxycodone ER and fentanyl transdermal system. The 2005 overall cost of LAOAs decreased 8.0% compared with the overall cost in 2002. The per-member-per-month (PMPM) cost for opioid users in 2002 was $110.57 ($120.04 when adjusted to 2005 dollars) compared with $123.75 in 2005. In comparison, the overall PMPM for all members in 2002 was $3.52 ($3.82 when adjusted to 2005 dollars) compared with $3.59 in 2005.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study successfully demonstrated that a state Medicaid program initiative can result in a significant overall decrease in opioid class utilization specifically for the targeted, more costly agents. This was achieved via the implementation of a Therapeutic Class Management multidisciplinary workgroup that established a prior authorization process implementing limits on dose, as well as identified preferred less costly agents. It further facilitated the direct opportunity for pharmacy-prescriber collaboration for LAOA medication management.

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