According to the National Health Institute, Idaho has experienced an increase in opioid-related deaths in recent years. Approximately 119 Idahoans died from opioids in 2016, and 466 have died of a related opioid overdose between 2012-2016.
Local health provider Blue Cross of Idaho is looking to turn that tide: they've announced a new strategy aimed at first time users.
There are four main components of the strategy: one, it limits the number of days an opioid can be prescribed, two, limits the strength of opioids in new prescriptions, three, it requires prescribers must first use opioids that are immediate-release, and four, and tracks prescription and usage patterns.
"Prevention is worth a pound of cure so if we can be judicious in terms of how we're managing patients, and how we're working with our colleagues and constituents, be they pharmacists or physicians, until patients get the right treatment and get it safely, is I think a win-win," said Dr. Daniel Meltzer, SVP and Chief Medical Officer at Blue Cross of Idaho.
Meltzer says their strategy is to save lives-- not to limit access to needed medications.
The group is hosting a "Take-Back Day" on October 27 at the Blue Cross campus in Meridian, for the community to dispose of unused opioids and other prescription drugs safely.