Senator Madden Introduces Bill To Help Combat Opioid Crisis

Senator Madden introduced a pair of bills in June that would improve patient access to safer pain medication. Specifically, the bills, S4007 and S4051, would require Medicaid coverage and health benefits coverage for buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone without step therapy or fail-first protocols for pain management patients.

Health benefits plans sometimes employ what is known as a fail-first protocol before covering a doctor-prescribed medication. A fail-first protocol will require a patient to try and fail one or more drugs on an approved list before a doctor’s original prescription would be covered. There are some circumstances under which this might be appropriate, including when there are generic options of medications available to treat a certain ailment, all with minimal side effects.

However, in the case of pain management, patients suffering from chronic pain are often required to use highly addictive medications that are easily tampered with, such as Oxycontin, as part of a fail-first protocol. Buprenorphine drugs are slower-acting narcotics and are not as susceptible to tampering as other opioid medications. That is to say, it is more difficult to transform these drugs into a fast-acting form that could be misused and abused.

According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, over the past six years, Gloucester County has had an average of 90 people die as a result of overdose. Camden County has lost an average of over 220 people per year over the same timeframe. Although the state has taken steps to combat the opioid crisis, it is clear that there is still much more to do. Access to addictive prescription medications has long been cited as a contributing factor to the crisis.

Of course, any opioid medication has the potential to be misused. However, Senator Madden hopes that by restricting access to fast-acting opioids in favor of slow-acting, tamper-resistant opioids, public access to dangerous, highly addictive medications will be greatly reduced.