Morrisey seeks end to opioid incentives

WHEELING — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey believes curing West Virginia’s opioid addiction problem means ending the financial incentives to doctors who prescribe them.

During a stop in Wheeling this week, Morrisey said he is working on an initiative that would change the financial incentives for how opioids are prescribed.

“In particular, we’re going to be reaching out to the insurers and health care providers about the financial incentive for prescribing opiates, as opposed to non-opiate products,” he said. “And it’s going to be a financial initiative involving many states.”

Eight states are already are involved, “and it’s going to grow,” according to Morrisey.

He said his plan calls for working with other states to obtain information from insurers regarding their coverage and payment policies.

“We are going to have to look at all aspects of the pharmaceutical supply chain, and of the coverage and payment process,” Morrisey said.

“Physicians are being incentivized to provide opiate products when there are alternatives available,” he said. “Why are we paying more for a prescription opiate when a non-opiate alternative could be more effective?”

Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states whose attorneys general are discussing the matter with Morrisey, and he believes there is “a really good opportunity” to have a large coalition addressing the issue.

“The fact is long-term, prescription opiates only mask the pain. They don’t treat the underlying disease condition,” Morrisey said. “We need to make sure we are focusing on things that actually change or address the pain, as opposed to things that might only provide additional profit for those involved with the products.

“The whole system incentivizes prescription of opiates, which is one of the reasons why we have had the proliferation of pills (in West Virginia.) We have to get to the bottom of that, so that there are incentives to look at non-opiate alternatives.”

Morrisey said the attorneys general will work to review of all insurers systems, then seek to collaborate with the insurers to change bad policies.”

And he believes the insurers, themselves, want to address the issue of opiate prescriptions.

“There are some insurers who are forward thinking, and who are trying to change their policies in a way to limit the number of addictive pills that are being prescribed and dispensed,” he said. “We want to get to the bottom of who has good programs, and who needs additional work. That’s a broader national effort we’re doing out of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.”

(King can be contacted at jking@theintelligencer.net)

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