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Addressing America’s Opioid Epidemic – New York Times

This outcome paralleled the one two decades earlier at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, reported in The American Journal of Public Health: “Interim methadone maintenance can reduce heroin use among those awaiting entry into comprehensive treatment.”

But what was surprising was the cost associated with the Baltimore experience: Effective interim treatment cost the participating treatment programs just $3.50 in incremental costs per patient per week!

It is indeed time for action. If each of the roughly 1,200 methadone maintenance providers in America opened its doors for interim treatment, large numbers of addicts could be accommodated at minimal cost.


The writer, a doctor, is a former assistant commissioner for addiction, New York City Health Department, 1970-75.

To the Editor:

Insurers Putting Cost Over Safety With Painkillers” (front page, Sept. 18) misses a significant point: Health plans have been a critical force in driving the recent declines in monthly opioid prescriptions.

Health plans are committed to solving this crisis. Plans employ doctors, nurses and other experts to evaluate scientific evidence and understand what tools, treatments and technologies best improve patient health. They work closely with care providers every day to cover the safest, most effective and most proven approaches to managing pain.

This includes education about evidence-based approaches to managing pain; outreach on the dangers of opioids; identifying and encouraging alternative, nonopioid treatment plans like exercise and physical therapy; promoting careful patient monitoring; and dispensing an appropriate amount of prescription drugs.

Patients deserve care that is delivered safely and affordably, in the most effective setting and at the most appropriate frequency. That’s why many health plans have instituted new programs that are helping to reduce how much — and how often — opioids are prescribed.

By working together, we can provide patients with better pathways to healing without putting their lives in danger because of opioids.


The writer is chief medical officer for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

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Addressing America’s Opioid Epidemic – New York Times

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