Since the opioid crisis was first realized in the nation, scientists scrambled to find better formulas for painkillers that were harder to abuse. While they were successful in that challenge, the prices of these formulas were higher than the opioids that were easy to abuse. So people who were not able to avoid these high charges chose the cheaper alternative, and sometimes ended up dependent as a result.
Now, a new bill is being considered by The Pine Tree State that would make the protective formulas cost the same as the non-protective ones. It is a move that might change addiction in the state forever.
The bill, known as L.D. 919, would cause all medications, regardless of formula type, to have the same co-pay. Currently, several of the abuse-deterrent formulations let health insurance companies charge patients hundreds of dollars more each month. The legislators are hopeful that the bill will cause people to choose the nonaddictive formulas instead, reducing the number of people hooked on opioids. However, anyone who pays out of pocket or does not have health insurance will be charged the same.
Between 2003 and 2013, the number of Maine residents dependent on opioids doubled.
In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection found that Maine had the highest rate of prescriptions for long-term opiates than any other state. Doctors were writing double the number of prescriptions than the rest of the nation. The state also came in at No. 11 for states that prescribed a higher dose of opioids at one time. As a result of these startling numbers, Maine has dealt with a considerable opioid abuse problem. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of people dependent on opioids doubled. These high addiction rates may be because the medications were so easy to get.
One of the main groups stopping patients from becoming addicted to opioids are physicians. That is why almost all states now have prescription monitoring programs, which allow doctors to recognize when a patient has been taking a prescription for too long or is using more than one doctor to get the same prescription, known as doctor shopping. If doctors are not paying attention or are prescribing certain opioids in high amounts, it can be easy for patients to get addicted and learn ways to get away with obtaining more. When that does not work, some may turn to cheaper alternatives such as heroin.
While over prescribing is one part of this major issue, it is also important for legislators to look at alternative ways to manage chronic pain and address addiction treatment throughout the state.
Maine is not the first state to do this. Last year, Massachusetts chose to protect patients from unreasonable co-pay amounts, and was successful in lowering the amount of opioids abused. Like Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are thinking about putting forward similar bills that could hopefully reduce the number of people dealing with opiate dependency.