Surgeon General’s Plea to Employers: Help Fight the Opioid Crisis

(DGIwire) – Employers bear significant responsibility in solving the opioid epidemic. This was the message recently conveyed by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams to an audience of employer-sponsored healthcare benefit stakeholders in Washington, DC, according to Speaking before the National Business Group on Health, the Surgeon General urged his audience to consider their role in searching for solutions to the crisis.

Research has shown that as many as 71 percent of employers have been affected by prescription drug abuse, with one study estimated that four in 10 opioid addicts are insured under the health plans of large employers, reports. The Surgeon General said those who take prescription opioids may not even realize they are taking this class of drugs, and that employers might make the problem worse by not offering coverage of addiction medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“As various sectors of society, including employers, continue to work together on new solutions to the opioid crisis, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers need to play a significant role as well,” says Tony Mack, CEO of Virpax Pharmaceuticals. “This can include developing efficacious non-opioid painkillers that do not have the same addiction potential.”

In his speech, the Surgeon General encouraged those in the Washington audience to take a bigger stand on community health, saying that those in the private sector have access to actionable information that government does not. He urged his listeners to think about how they could have an impact on the health not only of their employees but on their families and communities as well. He added that employers could act as “conveners” who build bridges between law enforcement as well as community and faith-based organizations to drive change.

The personal crisis of opioid addiction became a common theme throughout the session at which the Surgeon General spoke, reported, underscored by one of his data points: two to three people, statistically speaking, would die of opioid-induced disease during the nearly one-hour length of his talk alone. He stressed that employers should consider their role in creating an environment in which the healthy choice is the easy choice. He went on to point to features of employer wellness programs and health plans that could help address the problem, including access to long-term care and recovery support groups.

Meanwhile, companies like Virpax are doing their part by studying the use of new transdermal drug delivery systems to advance how patients and physicians are able to manage pain without opioids. For example, the company has licensed a patented aerosol-based system—dubbed a “Patch-in-a-Can®”—that is designed to deliver non-opioids such as NSAIDs for the transdermal treatment of acute pain in a metered-dose spray.

“Working together, those in charge of overseeing the wellbeing of Americans—whether at the doctor’s office or at the workplace—can move beyond the paradigm of pain care that involves opioid medications to one that is better for all involved,” Mack adds.