Lawmakers Debate Managing Pain Medication Intake and Costs

Jul 17, 2015

As state lawmakers decide whether to mandate abuse-deterrent formulations for opioid medications in health insurance plans, an expert makes one thing clear: Americans have a huge problem with pain and don't manage it well. As a result, billions are being spent on pain-relief drugs that often lead to addiction. Some are urging lawmakers to do something to mitigate those costs.

The Pacific Research Institute’s Wayne Winegarden tells the Health Insurance Reform Commission that the economic cost of pain is a whopping $635 billion in medical costs and lost productivity. Addiction diversion programs cost more than $55 billion. Winegarden was tasked to find out whether it's worth it to mandate abuse-deterrent formulations for opioid medications.

"On net, your budget should go down because of the extra healthcare costs that the abuse creates on Medicaid, on the extra criminal justice costs. When you take into account all of those costs, you're going to have a net positive on the budget."

But opponents argue that mandating a certain drug- especially one with few to no generic alternatives-would enable drug companies to corner the market, increase expenses, and take all of the external savings as profits. They also say such products only prevent abusers from tampering with opiates to achieve a faster and more intense high. They add that more focus on the practice of over-prescribing addictive drugs is needed.