NACDS recommends pain management, opioid policies in comments to CMS

Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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The pain management and opioid policies advanced by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores can help guide the federal government’s action plan to prevent and treat opioid addiction, NACDS has told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

NACDS submitted formal comments to CMS, in response to a request for information by the agency. CMS is developing an action plan to prevent opioid addiction and to enhance access to medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, as called for by the SUPPORT Act that was enacted in 2018. MAT refers to the use of behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance abuse disorders, or SUD.  

“NACDS and our members wholeheartedly agree that pharmacists have a critical role to play in curbing prescription opioid misuse and abuse and providing individuals struggling with a SUD with convenient options for receiving MAT services. As the face of neighborhood healthcare, pharmacists are trusted healthcare professionals who regularly interact with patients to provide expert advice on proper medication use and deliver a growing number of important healthcare services to the public,” wrote NACDS president and  CEO Steve Anderson, in the comments.

NACDS’ comments addressed the following topics on which CMS requested information:

  • Policy solutions to address how certain payment and coverage policies under Medicare and Medicaid for pain treatment may have contributed to the use of opioids;
  • Policy solutions to address how payment and coverage policies under Medicare and Medicaid may have impeded access to non-opioid pain treatment;
  • Policy solutions to improve coverage and access for SUD treatment options and evidence-based, Food and Drug Administration approved MAT.

NACDS detailed policy recommendations, including:

  • Limit initial opioid prescriptions for the treatment of acute pain – with appropriate exemptions for chronic pain, pain associated with cancer care, hospice or other end-of-life care, and palliative care, as well as prescriptions issued to treat addiction;
  • Pursue policy changes to encourage utilization of electronic prescribing;
  • Improve coverage for pain-management treatment options to improve access to non-opioid therapeutic alternatives;
  • Increase access to SUD treatment by leveraging pharmacists to provide these services.

In addition to these policy recommendations, NACDS also advances policies regarding prescription drug monitoring plans and drug disposal solutions. All of these recommendations are based on pharmacists’ experiences on the front lines of healthcare delivery. Further, NACDS emphasizes pharmacies’ long-standing and ongoing commitment to taking actions that help prevent opioid abuse and addiction, while caring for those in pain.