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Opinion | Non-opioid alternatives in Michigan hospitals would cut addiction

Michigan, as many other states in our nation, has had a long, distressing struggle with the opioid crises. Our attention to this crisis as of late has been diverted. COVID-19 has rightfully dominated our medical community’s attention along with our businesses, political leaders and our everyday lives.

Robert Ficano
Robert Ficano is the former Wayne County Sheriff and County Executive. (Courtesy photo)

A bitter reminder of the opioid crises in Michigan has surfaced in the most recent study by Dr. Julia Donohue of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. The prevalence of opioid use disorder among Medicaid enrollees increased from 3.3 percent in 2014 to 5 percent in 2018. Michigan was one of the 11 states in the study. Nationally since 1999, over 750,000 people have died in the United States because of opioid overdose.

In fact, an IBM and University of Michigan study has concluded that filling an outpatient prescription for opioids in the one year after a major inpatient or outpatient surgery was associated with the increased health care costs and utilization across all payers. The study pointed to several increased rehabilitation costs and loss of workers productivity in not using the non-opioid alternatives in post-surgery.

Michigan has passed legislation to increase public awareness of the opioid crises but now is the time to do more. Now is the time for Michigan hospitals to meaningfully change the availability of non-opioid procedures.

That is why I have been working with several committed health professionals, public officials, community leaders and labor leaders who have experienced firsthand the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic.

How do we impact this crisis? By mandating the availability institutionally of non-opioid procedures.

Many hospitals operate in silos when it comes to availability of non-opioid procedures. Hospital pharmacies limit the non-opioid procedures post-surgery availability because of costs. That simply is unacceptable and short sighted.

It’s all about the money.  For example, opioids cost pennies on the dollar while a non-opioid procedure is an additional $90 on a $20,000 surgical procedure.

Labor leaders such as Pat Devlin of the Michigan Building Trades recognize the flawed logic of the hospital pharmacies.

Although opioids post-surgery may initially be cheaper, the ultimate cost in addiction is devastating and deadly.

Devlin estimates that about a quarter of his work force returns to work after surgery with an opioid addiction issue. That is why he and other labor leaders are willing to pay the additional $90 for the non-opioid procedures for their members.

Law enforcement officials see the addiction on the streets. Once the opioid is no longer prescribed, the addicted individual turns to heroin (a cheaper alternative) many times laced with fentanyl which leads to deadly results.

Now is the time to demand hospitals change their pharmacy policy. We all need to not only better educate the public on non-opioid options but make it available to surgeons and remove barriers from our health providers.

Michigan---let’s get this done.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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