If you think drug misuse and abuse doesn’t affect everyone, think again. It’s an escalating problem spreading to all corners of our communities and across all socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, and ages.
The business community in Florida is no different, and has been severely affected by prescription opioid abuse in particular. Prescription opioid abuse and addiction transforms hard-working Americans into disrupted and unproductive employees. According to a study, the abuse of prescription opioids cost U.S. businesses more than $25 billion in 2007.
As president of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I believe that we have to address this problem by enacting logical public policies to combat prescription opioid abuse.
I applaud lawmakers in Florida who have adopted laws to combat drug abuse in the past few years, including establishing a more stringent prescription drug monitoring program, making the anti-overdose medication, Naloxone, more readily available, and shutting down pill mills across the state. These steps have saved thousands of lives and are vital tools against drug abuse.
But there are other tools that could be used.
One is the availability of opioids with abuse-deterrent properties (OADPs). OADPs are the reformulation of prescription opioid pills that make the pills more difficult to crush. Abusers often crush pills so they can smoke, snort, or inject the medication.
According to a study, since the development of the first opioid with abuse-deterrent properties, OADPs have been proven to cut abuse of opioids by 66 percent.
With this tool in the arsenal, I urge Florida’s legislators to pass Senate Bill 422/House Bill 363, which would make OADPs more accessible to physicians and their patients. This is smart legislation that would help to reduce prescription drug abuse.
While Senate Bill 422/House Bill 363 has received widespread support, there has been some misinformation about what the legislation does and how much it will cost.
First, the legislation does not mandate insurance coverage of OADPs, but rather it provides physicians the option to prescribe OADPs without first having to prescribe a more easily abused opioid.
Second, some have raised concerns about the legislation’s potential cost to the state, pointing to the cost attributed to similar legislation last year in Tennessee. However, comparison to the cost of the Tennessee legislation is inaccurate for a few reasons.
The Florida bill does not apply to Medicaid as it did in Tennessee. Also, the cost attributed to the Tennessee legislation calculated the cost of converting all opioid prescriptions in Medicaid (Tenncare).
The Florida legislation does not require that all opioids be abuse-deterrent; it simply provides more options for doctors and patients. Last, the analysis of the Tennessee legislation never included provisions for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of OADPs.
In fact, a recent report indicated that OADPs could save over $1 billion in benefits because of lower costs related to health care, criminal justice, and higher workplace productivity.
Making OADPs more accessible could help the business community in Florida. In 2010, 73 percent of workers compensation claims involved prescription painkillers. OADPs could help deter injured employees from abusing their medications, ensure that doctors are able to more safely treat their patients, and help patients quickly recover and return to work.
Florida cannot afford the continued spread of prescription drug abuse. Our lawmakers must adopt Senate Bill 422/House Bill 363 to help businesses throughout Florida save lives and keep their employees healthy and productive.
Julio Fuentes is President & CEO of Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Column courtesy of Context Florida.