AmerisourceBergen makes push to curb opioid diversion, misuse
Healthcare distributor AmerisourceBergen has reaffirmed its commitment to ongoing supply chain safeguards and announced plans to build partnerships in an effort fight opioid abuse and diversion.
The Valley Forge, Pa.-based company said that since 2007, it has provided the Drug Enforcement Administration with daily reports of all opioid-based medication orders that include quantity, type and receiving pharmacy, which it says has led to tens of thousands of stopped shipments of suspicious orders. It said it would continue to guard its supply chain by using data and analytics to analuze orders from customers against their peer groups to identify suspicious behavior. Additionally, the company said it was continuing to invest in its Diversion Control Team, which includes pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and former law enforcement professionals. The ream visits customer sites, conducts surveillance and reviews customer products, AmerisourceBergen said.
The company also noted that it remains commited to taking no action to market or creae demand for opioids, and that it has not provided incentive-based compensation or bonuses around the sale of opioids, nor does it have plans to.
“The commitments and initiatives announced today reflect our belief that all companies in healthcare should be constantly looking at ways to innovate, collaborate and enhance existing practices in order to best combat the opioid issue,” AmerisourceBergen president, chairman and CEO Steve Collis said. “Alongside our recent legislative recommendations aimed at supporting regulator and industry data transparency, these reflect our dedication to doing our part to combat diversion and misuse of opioid products.”
AmerisourceBergen said that it would work to find partnerships that will offer opioid abuse solutions. This is in addition to the company’s collaboration with Walgreens to bring safe medication disposal units to 900 Walgreens stores near military bases and other areas that have borne the brunt of the opioid epidemic.
The new initiatives follow the company’s November call for new guidelines surrounding data transparency between the DEA, drug distributors and pharmacies.
“Given the current silos within the supply chain, presently only DEA has access to comprehensive, critically needed data on the total quantities of opioids sold to pharmacies across the United States,” Collis said. “While distributors are individually required to report controlled substance data to DEA, we currently are not privy to if our peers in the industry are supplying opioid-based medicines to the same pharmacies we are. AmerisourceBergen is committed to working collaboratively to gain access to this data so that all distributors would be better able to detect suspicious orders, and ultimately help stop bad actors in their tracks.”
AmerisourceBergen’s suggestions included allowing distributors access to de-identified DEA data to help evaluate the context of a pharmacy’s opioid order, establishing additional protocols around opioid ordering and using DEA registrant fees to fund enhanced data capabilities, among others.
CMS reports slowed health spending growth
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have released new data from 2016 showing that upward trajectory of U.S. healthcare spending has slowed. The agency, in a report published in the January 2018 issue of Health Affairs that 2016 saw spending increase to 17.9% of U.S. gross domestic product. But that it only grew at a rate of 4.3% — down from the 5.1% and 5.8% spending growth rates seen in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The rate of spending growth for 2016 is more in-line with the average of 4.2% growth seen between 2008 and 2015. CMS attributes the slowdown to a wider slowdown in spending growth for retail prescription drugs, hospital care and physician and clinical services. It also noted that private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid all saw spending slowed due to lower growth rates per enrollee. On a per-capita basis, spending grew at 3.5%, reaching $10,348 last year.
Private insurer spend increased 5.1% to $1.1 trillion in 2016 (roughly 33% of all health expenditures), which is a slowdown from the 6.9% growth seen in 2015. CMS said that a downturn in enrollment growth, as well as lower retail prescription drug spending. Medicare spending grew 3.6% to $671.2 billion in 2016, compared with 4.8% in 2015, while reporting stable enrollment growth. Per-enrollee spending also increased at a slower rate than 2015 — 0.8% compared with 2.1%. Medicaid spending hit $565.5 billion last year, making up 17% of all national health expenditures. Medicaid spend grew 3.9%, compared with 9.5% in 2015 and 11.5% in 2014. CMS attributed the spikes in past years to the initial impact of the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid eligibility and an increase in enrollment.
Retail prescription spending increased 1.3% in 2016, growing to $328.6 billion — roughly 10% of overall health spending. The growth is markedly lower than the 12.4% seen in 2014 and 8.9% in 2015, which CMS said was due to an influx of hepatitis C treatments on the market. The share of spending made up of retail prescription drug is similar to what it was in 2009, CMS said.
Among goods and services, retail prescription drugs saw the lowest growth rate, with physician and clinical services, which make up 20% of overall health spend, up 5.4% and hospital spending up 4.7%, making it 32% of all healthcare spending.
“Over the last decade, the US has experienced unique events that have affected the health care sector, including the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression, major changes to the health care system because of the ACA, and historic lows in medical price inflation,” said Micah Hartman, a statistician in the Office of the Actuary at CMS and lead author of the Health Affairs article. “In 2016, the slowdown in health care spending followed significant insurance coverage expansions under the ACA and very strong growth in retail prescription drug spending in 2014 and 2015.”
To read the full report, click here.
Flu illness tracking season officially kicks off with Walgreens’ latest Flu Index
Walgreens on Wednesday launched its first Flu Index for the 2017-18 season. The Flu Index is a weekly report that ranks the top markets and states for flu activity in the U.S., including Puerto Rico.
Brownsville and Beaumont, Texas are among the top markets for flu this week, and Texas and Arkansas top the list of U.S. states with the most flu activity.
“Each flu season is unique and unpredictable, which is why we developed the Flu Index four years ago to help our customers, health officials and local news media stay up-to-date on flu activity in their community,” stated Dorothy Chrzaszcz, director of immunizations at Walgreens. “The Flu Index leverages data from nearly 8,000 locations across the U.S. each week, and can serve as a trusted resource and indicator of activity, reminding people of the importance of flu prevention.”
The flu season last week crossed the seasonal threshold established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as 2.3% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.2%.
Now in its fourth year, the Walgreens Flu Index is compiled using the drug store chain’s weekly retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat influenza across Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide, and Walgreens locations in Puerto Rico. In addition to the top markets and states for activity, the Flu Index also ranks the markets and states experiencing the greatest gains in activity on a week-over-week basis. As flu cases continue to increase across the U.S. just as the holiday travel season approaches, the Flu Index underscores the importance of taking preventive measures, such as receiving a flu shot, to help stay healthy throughout the season.
As of Dec. 2, the top 10 designated marketing areas with flu activity were:
- Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas;
- Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas;
- Tyler-Longview (Lufkin & Nacogdoches), Texas;
- Corpus Christi, Texas;
- Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.;
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas;
- Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
- San Antonio; and
- Ft. Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.
The Index is not intended to illustrate levels or severity of flu activity, but rather, based on this methodology, to show which populations are experiencing the highest incidences of influenza within the U.S. and Puerto Rico each week.
Data for the Walgreens Flu Index is analyzed at state and geographic market levels to measure absolute impact and incremental change of antiviral medications on a per store average basis, and does not include markets in which Walgreens has fewer than 10 retail locations.