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10/24/2017

Schuette Joins Coalition Urging Insurance Industry to Do More to Curb Opioid Epidemic

BillSchuetteIn September, Michigan Attorney General (and candidate for the Republican Michigan gubernatorial nomination in 2018) Bill Schuette (pictured) signed on to a letter from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) asking its insurance company members to review payment and coverage policies and revise them, as needed, to encourage healthcare providers to choose alternatives to prescription opioid painkillers. Chiropractic care is one of the opioid alternatives specifically mentioned in the letter, which states:

“When patients seek treatment for any of the myriad conditions that cause chronic pain, doctors should be encouraged to explore and prescribe effective non-opioid alternatives, ranging from non-opioid medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care.”

The NAAG letter concludes: “The status quo, in which there may be financial incentives to prescribe opioids for pain which they are ill-suited to treat, is unacceptable.”

Opioid overdoses kill 91 Americans every single day. More than half of those deaths involve prescription opioids. State and local governments alone spend nearly $8 billion a year on criminal justice costs related to opioid abuse. Although the amount of pain reported by Americans has remained steady since 1999, prescriptions for opioid painkillers have nearly quadrupled over the same timeframe. This four-fold increase in prescriptions has contributed to a commensurate increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths. 

The full text of the NAAG letter can be accessed here.  

More Michigan Opioid News: Schuette and Coalition Open Investigation into Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

Also in September, Schuette and a bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general opened an investigation into opioid manufacturers and distributors. announcement represents a dramatic expansion and coordination of the investigations by the attorneys general into the nationwide opioid epidemic. A majority of the states' chief legal officers are now pooling resources and coordinating across party lines to address the most pressing public health crisis affecting our country, and doing so with a broad focus on multiple entities at both the manufacturer and distributor levels.

“Highly addictive opioid drugs have destroyed families, robbed children of parents and robbed parents of children,” said Schuette. “I will be working with attorneys general from across the country, pooling our resources, and digging into the marketing, distribution and sale of opioids.  Once the information has been provided and reviewed, we will take further coordinated legal action as appropriate.” 

Opioids – both prescription and illicit – are the main driver of drug overdose deaths nationwide and in Michigan. In 2015, Michigan saw its third consecutive year of increased drug overdose deaths. 1,981 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, a 13.5% increase from 2014. Since 1999, deaths from opioids have quadrupled, up from 455 in 1999.  

Schuette’s Continued Focus on Stopping the Opioid Crisis in Michigan

These two actions are the latest steps in Schuette’s ongoing work to address the opioid epidemic.  Since January 2016, the Attorney General’s Licensing and Regulation Division has worked collaboratively with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to summarily suspend the licenses of 25 prescribers who engaged in overprescribing behavior. The licenses of four more dispensers were also summarily suspended during that time. 

Additionally, Schuette’s Health Care Fraud Division has prosecuted two separate prescription forgery rings, resulting in successful resolutions against all 13 persons charged. 

And, Schuette’s newly formed Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit, part of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, has already taken on 48 cases, with six individuals already convicted and 17 currently facing charges. The cases have been and will continue to be charged in cooperation with local law enforcement, Michigan State Police narcotics teams and federal agencies. The Unit will also take on felony murder cases in which it is alleged that the delivery of opioids has caused death. 

Sources:

National association of Attorneys General Press Release, “Attorneys General Urge Health Insurance Companies to Reduce Provider Incentives for Prescribing Pain Killers, September 18, 2017
Michigan Attorney General Press Release, “Schuette Opens Investigation into Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors,” September 19, 2017

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