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Express Scripts takes stab at reducing opioid abuse

An illustration of pills.
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-based pharmacy benefits management company Express Scripts is tackling the opioid crisis.
The company announced an initiative Wednesday to more than 600 clients gathered in Dallas for an annual Express Scripts conference. The program focuses on limiting exposure to the painkillers and gives patients access to specialty-pharmacists to make sure the drugs are used properly. 

The initiative follows a pilot study that produced a roughly 40percent drop in hospitalizations and emergency room visits by new patients, according to Express Scripts spokesperson Brian Henry. He said there was also a significant drop in the need for more opioids.

"And that's important. Because when you are done with your treatment and your pain is resolved. If you got extra pills and you start taking those extra pills you're more likely to become addicted to pills." Henry said.

The initiative is designed for people who are prescribed opioids for the first time.

"If you can keep somebody from being addicted in the first place, that's where you can have the greatest impact," Henry told St. Louis Public Radio. "And that really is where Express Scripts is putting this program together - is focusing on that initial touchpoint for people who are new to treatment to make sure they get the medicine they need, and don't get more medicine than they need that could cause them to eventually become addicted."
Express Scripts says more than 1,000 people a day in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms for abusing prescription opioids.

Follow Wayne on Twitter: @wayneradio

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.