Insurers Deny Opioids, CVS Refuses to Fill Unless Authorized


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Always something new in this amazing field of pain management where treatment is decided by politicians and insurers.

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Patients and physicians alike have suffered denial of medications without prior authorization for the last 10 years or more. Prior authorization takes enormous time, at times more than one hour for each medication.  Try to picture a full day of seeing patients and an unexpected full day just for prior authorizations that must be fitted into the hours the insurer is open – remember, examiners often leave early, central time, hours ahead of PST. 

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Insurers deny the usual opioid because there is no proof that opioids have ever been proven to help chronic pain and side effects may include constipation, cognitive impairment, overdose and/or death.  

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Insurers routinely deny opioid at lower dosages when I try to taper: giving less is not allowed without prior authorization. Remember, we don’t find out until the patient goes to the pharmacy to fill, and they may wait to fill, then may need the medication that very night to continue their medication. Who is open after hours? 

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One independent 94 year old senior for years has been on fentanyl 12 mcg/hr patch and Oxycontin 10 mg in AM (not PM) for frozen shoulders and arthritis in knees. These are small doses. Denied for 3 or 4 years, so she paid out of pocket, in her 90’s. 

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She walks with a rollator, and wins at bridge games that she plays several times a week. Under my care since 2003, physical therapy has been unsuccessful. With her orthopedist, she receives injections every three months that help arthritis in knees. We had tried appeals including sending entire chart to insurer that included physical therapy note, but insurer insisted on physical therapy again. I asked them to show me one, simply ONE publication that showed physical therapy helpful for severe frozen shoulders present for decades. 

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Now pharmacy refuses to fill her 10 mg Oxycontin and her patch unless insurer authorizes. Her oxygen saturation is 98% which is excellent. Cognitive function is unchanged since 2003. I cannot imagine how she gets dressed as even a few degrees of motion of either shoulder elicits screams of pain. Her daytime caregiver must be dressing her. 

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That’s how we treat our injured, our disabled and our elderly.

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Insurers have authorized $50,000 spinal cord stimulators for years without a single study showing long term proof of efficacy. The potential for permanent damage to spinal cord and potential for accelerated pain syndromes is frightening. See the many comments on this site from patients who have suffered serious medical injury. 

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NIH has failed to adequately fund pain research for decades. But congress has accepted millions from opioid manufacturers and for years FDA approved one new opioid after another, as often as 4 new ones each year. FDA previously approved a nonopioid medication such as Lyrica for neuropathic pain, but in the last few years, a nonopioid Horizant has been approved only for postherpetic neuralgia pain — nerve pain, but only ONE type of nerve pain. Remember, insurers mandate first trying gabapentin for nerve pain, though it was never FDA approved for pain at all. Try to get an off-label non-opioid medication approved for pain. hah!

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Now I have an RN in her 40’s who has severe nerve pain from CRPS in both upper limbs after carpal tunnel surgery. Gabapentin caused severe cognitive dysfunction, improved on Horizant but insurers refused to approve Horizant. The cost for one daily is at least $750, but pain is better using twice daily.

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This week comes a letter from insurer that Revia, naltrexone 50 mg tablet FDA approved for addiction to opioids and alcohol, is no longer covered.

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Psychiatry colleagues tell me the same story. Antidepressants that also help anxiety are not covered but better than taking Xanax that causes memory loss and can be used to overdose.

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Vote for better politicians, not for lies. Insist on NIH research funding for chronic pain management to represent the vast population with chronic pain, not the pittance they allow. 

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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