FDA Chief Gottlieb’s Call to Insurers, PBMs To Help Solve Opioid Overdose Crisis Mostly Ignored

FDA chief Scott Gottlieb called for help from the insurance and PBM industries in August, asking them to play a part in solving the opioid crisis, the deadliest drug overdose crisis in American history. Gottlieb called for a meeting in September. That meeting took place September 6, but the FDA is downplaying it. Press officer Michael Felberbaum would only say in an email exchange that “it was a high level discussion about drug competition and opioid strategies to combat the crisis. I don’t have any additional information to share.”

When pressed, Felberbaum directed us to the FDA’s public calendar, which suggests that the only company that responded was CVS. We reported last month that Gottlieb would need to use all his powers of persuasion to get help from insurers and PBMs, since they are not regulated by the FDA.

Apparently, he didn’t convince them. In making his unheeded clarion call, Gottlieb told Bloomberg in the summer that he thinks insurers and PBMs can help by changing instructions on drug labels, or perhaps requiring doctors to educate patients about the risks of taking prescriptions for longer periods of time.

“There shouldn’t be 30-day prescriptions for a tooth extraction, or 30-day prescriptions for a hernia repair,” Gottlieb told Bloomberg.

Gottlieb also wants to experiment with making sure that prescribing conforms more to clinical guidelines. “They’re not in there right now,” Gottlieb said. “There’s no information in the drug label about what the appropriate dispensing should be.”

Better adherence to guidelines could possibly make prescribing less burdensome, he added. 

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