Press release

Oct. 23, 2018

Providing Opioid Safety Guide at the pharmacy counter associated with four-fold increase in overdose reversal drug dispensing 

Florida Blue, Prime Therapeutics and Walgreens pilot project to address opioid epidemic confirms power of collaboration.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Florida Blue, Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime) and Walgreens piloted a program where Walgreens pharmacists gave a one-page Opioid Safety Guide to Florida Blue members picking up their opioid prescription from a Walgreens pharmacy. Florida Blue members with an opioid prescription who were considered at “high-risk” were identified by Prime. Prime worked with the Walgreens pharmacies to provide these members with the Opioid Safety Guide. The intervention resulted in a four-fold increase in members receiving naloxone, an overdose reversal agent.

“This positive result suggests there is immense potential for improving health outcomes and illustrates what can be achieved when organizations in the health care chain – in this case the insurer, pharmacy benefit manager and retail pharmacy – work collaboratively on this critical issue,” said Scott McClelland, Pharm.D., vice president of commercial and specialty pharmacy, Florida Blue.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory on opioid overdose encourages high-dose opioid utilizers to have naloxone available because they are at high risk of overdose.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “collaboration is essential for success in preventing opioid overdose deaths.”2 According to a Prime public opinion survey, only one in four respondents said they discussed the potential for addiction with a medical professional upon being prescribed opioids, and even fewer discussed safety – such as what to do with leftover medicine (17 percent) and what to do in case of emergency (11 percent).3 The need was evident for intervention at another point in the prescription process.

The Opioid Safety Guide included information on safe use, safe storage, safe disposal and overdose prevention – including information on naloxone. For the intervention group that received the Opioid Safety Guide, there was a four-fold increase in the likelihood of a member receiving naloxone the next time they picked up an opioid prescription.

Included in the analysis were 1,400 Florida Blue commercially insured members with pharmacy benefits through Prime whose claim history showed high opioid and controlled substance utilization. These members were divided into the intervention group – those who filled most of their opioid claims at a Florida-based Walgreens, and the control group – those who filled most of their opioid claims at a non-Walgreens pharmacy. Only the intervention group received an Opioid Safety Guide.

Patrick Gleason, PharmD, senior director, health outcomes at Prime said this intervention is one of the benefits of Prime’s ongoing collaboration with Walgreens. “We certainly look forward to future opportunities we can bring to members given our alliance and the outcomes of this work,” he said.

Prime is also joining Walgreens and other health care industry sponsors to expand the availability of safe medication disposal kiosks to an additional 900 Walgreens stores across the country. When the expansion is finished, kiosks will be in approximately 1,500 Walgreens stores across the country. Safe medication disposal kiosks allow individuals to safely and conveniently dispose of their unwanted, unused or expired medicines, including controlled substances, at no cost.

“We took a number of steps to make naloxone more accessible and easier to obtain in most states, including Florida. We are inspired by the results of the pilot program that clearly show how pharmacies in collaboration with other organizations in the healthcare chain can further combat the opioid epidemic while providing the best possible care for patients,” said Michael Taitel, senior director, health analytics, research & reporting at Walgreens.

Researchers will present the findings from this study at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy’s (AMCP) Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy Nexus Meeting Oct. 22-25 in Orlando.

1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdose. January 2018.

2. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Understanding the Epidemic. August 2018.

3. KRC Research conducted this research via an online survey of 1,014 Americans age 18 and older, from August 28-30, 2017. The sample was drawn randomly from a large national consumer panel. Data has been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the United States per the latest U.S. Census.

About Prime Therapeutics

Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime) helps people get the medicine they need to feel better and live well. Prime manages pharmacy benefits for health plans, employers, and government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. The company processes claims and offers clinical services for people with complex medical conditions. Prime serves more than 27 million people. It is collectively owned by 18 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans.

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Denise Lecher
Manager, Corporate Communications