From The Washington Post By Lenny Bernstein: Insurer is warning some doctors that their prescribing of opioid painkillers is far beyond the norm.
Many experts say the prescription painkiller epidemic started when physicians began over-prescribing powerful opioid medications, a well-meaning attempt to more aggressively treat patients' pain. With addiction to those pills at crisis levels, they argue, a good part of the solution would be for doctors to rein in use of the drugs.
The giant health insurer Aetna is now actively encouraging change. Using the vast amount of data it collects from insurance claims by pharmacies, it has begun contacting doctors whose prescribing habits are far outside the norm.
"You have been identified as falling within the top 1 percent of opioid prescribers within your specialty," Aetna wrote to 931 physicians across the country last week. The not-so-subtle reminder was aimed at doctors who refill opioid prescriptions at very high rates compared to their peers. Only doctors who prescribed the painkillers at least 12 times were included in the data examined, which represented more than 8.6 million claims. Physicians such as oncologists, who are likely to dispense large amounts of opioids as part of their practices, were excluded.