The number of deaths related to opioid overdoses has more than tripled from 2013 to 2015 in North Dakota.
Attorneys General from across the country, including Wayne Stenehjem, have joined forces to investigate the opioid crisis claiming thousands of lives.
Wayne Stenehjem; ND Attorney General: “We need to look to which the extent the pharmaceutical companies themselves may be responsible for initiating and promoting this particular epidemic.”
In February, pharmacy giant CVS will impliment stricter guidelines for opioid prescriptions, and you’ll also begin to see more of these: medication disposal bins in an effort to safely dispose of unneeded pills.
Stenehjem says along with pharmacies, it’s time for insurance companies to take responsibility for the role they play in this crisis as well.
Wayne Stenehjem; ND Attorney General: “We are also working with the insurance industry because we have concerns that they are more than happy to cover the costs of prescription narcotics, but aren’t looking at paying for drug and pain treatment for patients that are not addictive, though they cost more.”
Jessica Ahmann is a nurse practitioner. She says many times, it comes down to a trust that patients will follow their provider’s advice.
Jessica Ahmann; Pain Management Nurse Practitioner: “These medications can be very addictive. Why? Because sometimes they can create a euphoria for people. This feeling of feeling good and taking away pain. The big things we always get concerned about it the tolerance that we develop to it.”
The ND Board of Pharmacy says because of more education given on opioids, prescriptions in the state have actually dropped.
Mark Hardy; Exec Director of ND Board of Pharmacy: “The number of opioid prescriptions from 2015 to 2016 has actually decreased. It’s decreased by about 75,000 prescriptions. When you look at the initial figure from 2017, it looks like we’re going to see a similar trend of a decrease of roughly about 10%”
The state have been taking other action as the epidemic has deepened, such as increasing access to naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.
The attorneys general are also going after insurance companies- many will cover opioids, but not a more expensive alternative.
Other states have already pursued litigation against pharmacies, but North Dakota is waiting to for some answers before taking that step.