Let’s start with some statistics. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there were over 54,000 overdose deaths in 2015, easily eclipsing the record-setting number of roughly 47,000 the prior year. Nearly 35,000 of the overdose deaths in 2015 were the result of opioid drugs; and over 12,000 of those were caused by heroin. Put these figures up against the fact that roughly three percent (31,619) of the country’s 800,000-plus physicians are certified to prescribe the potentially lifesaving drug buprenorphine. Roughly 23 million Americans suffer from addiction and only a fraction of them have access to one of this critical treatment and maintenance resource.
The battle against nationwide drug addiction and overdose may have just gained a powerful new ally. Connecticut-based insurance provider Cigna Corp. is ending the requirement that patients clear difficult administrative hurdles to gain access to medications used to fight opioid addiction. The decision was made after the insurer reached a settlement with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, who recently requested information from the company to address concerns about barriers to treatment. The changes are being implemented across the country, and may be a game-changer for those who have not been able to easily access quality treatment in the past.