One Weapon In Fighting The Opioid Epidemic

Investor’s Business Daily posted an article today about an agreement reached between Aetna Insurance and Abbot Laboratories.

The article reports:

Aetna (AET) agreed Tuesday to cover a chronic pain device from Abbott Laboratories (ABT) that acts as an alternative to potentially addictive opioids.

The decision extends coverage of Abbott’s dorsal root ganglion neurostimulation pain therapy to an estimated 22 million Americans living with chronic pain. By stimulating the dorsal root ganglion, a structure along the spinal column, Abbott’s device can mask pain.

“While Medicare already covers our DRG system, it’s encouraging to see payers like Aetna review the clinical data and outcomes, then choose to provide access to DRG stimulation for their members,” Keith Boettiger, vice president of Abbott’s neuromodulation business, said in a written statement.

…Neuropathic pain conditions are some of the most prevalent and under-treated forms of chronic pain in America, Abbott says.

These patients often try various medication, opioids or surgery to no end. Amid the opioid epidemic, the Food and Drug Administration is pushing for medical devices to help combat the crisis. An estimated 116 people died every day in the U.S. in 2016 due to opioid-related overdoses.

Many of the people in America who are addicted to opioids began that addiction after being prescribed the drugs for pain. When the prescription ran out and they could not refill it, they turned to street drugs, which were cheaper and available. Unfortunately, there are no controls on street drugs, and they are sometimes laced with fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2016, lab-made fentanyl helped kill over half of the people who died of opioid overdoses.

Finding a way to combat chronic pain without opioids is one step in dealing with the opioid epidemic in America. Kudos to Aetna in taking a step in that direction by covering the DRG system.