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Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain and part of their treatment plan often includes prescription opioids to treat and manage their conditions. However, when considering opioid therapy for chronic pain, it is important to consider the risks along with the benefits. With an emphasis on patient safety and better outcomes, Appriss Health provides healthcare providers with solutions to inform and support clinical decision-making.
While we are committed to helping providers, and others involved in patient care, work together to achieve better patient outcomes through earlier interventions, we also feel the responsibility and obligation to always communicate with patients and put them at the forefront of our solutions. That’s why we have dedicated a new section of our website specifically designed to help patients and their families better understand how Appriss Health’s solutions support them and enable better patient care.
This resource page includes:
Every day we approach our work with the goal to provide a usable and balanced clinical tool that protects access to care while also ensuring that clinicians and patients are well informed of potential risks. We will continually update this page, and we hope this will serve as a valuable resource to patients and their families.
In the name of battling our misnamed "opioid epidemic," (1) which has only resulted in making things worse (2) there is a casualty that is far worse than anything that could be caused by a drug - the loss of our right to make healthcare decisions with our own providers and the right to privacy. A whistleblower document from Walmart which I obtained discusses "scoring" patients based on their medical and prescription history. It should terrify you. And it will. Following are some passages from the seven-page document, which, despite its benign-sounding title, is anything but.
What you will read is not guidance. It is all but certain it will become a mandate, just like the CDC 2016 Opioid Prescribing Guidelines are now law or becoming law in most states. And it goes far beyond its alleged goal of helping to control opioid overprescription. Very far beyond. Here are some "highlights" that Walmart does not want you to know about.
Page 1: Pharmacist "guidance" for prescription drug users with different scores as determined by NarxCare (2), an algorithm designed to sniff out potential problems with the legal use of certain prescribed medicines.
Two things jump off the page here. First, the group that encompasses people with scores of 10-200 represents most of the people with a prescription. In the red circle on the right, it becomes obvious how badly Walmart is overstepping. Let's get this straight. If I have a legitimate prescription for Vicodin from my doctor I do not want to "consider the risks/benefits of new prescriptions."
Here's how healthcare works:
You may wonder what it takes to get into the 10-200 scoring group. Not much. From page 2:
Out of the blue, we are no longer talking about painkillers. Walmart is now interested in other potential drugs of abuse. If you happen to be taking Vicodin for chronic pain, Valium as a muscle relaxant, and an ADHD drug - a legitimate combination for some patients, you are going to get a worse score, which will likely mark you as a higher risk.
This is really awful. First, if you use an MME calculator it becomes quickly obvious that Walmart is not talking about addicts who are taking huge doses of opioids. But that doesn't stop the company from treating people that way. And it doesn't have to be much.
Walmart calls 40 MME an "unsafe condition," and is recommending tapering or discontinuing other drugs, such as Valium, which could potentiate the action of the opioid. How much is 40 MME? It's equivalent to 26.6 mg of oxycodone - 2.7 10 mg Percocet pills - not even half the maximum recommended daily dose of 60 mg.
The maximal daily dose of Percocet. Source: RxList
It is perfectly clear that patients are going to get some kind of a grade from The Walmart Enforcement Agency and you'd better believe that there will be consequences if that grade isn't good. Good luck getting a legal prescription filled there if you don't make the grade.
Pharmacies around the country are already arbitrarily deciding who does or does not get their scripts filled. Although is not explicitly stated it a pretty safe bet that patients could be refused prescriptions because of their score doesn't meet Walmart's "standards."
What can make scores bad? All sorts of things. For example, if you:
Questions that need to be asked
"Within the next 60 days, Walmart and Sam’s Club will restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply, with up to a 50 morphine milligram equivalent maximum per day. This policy is in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for opioid use."
Walmart press release.
Take a good look in your rearview mirror. Most likely you'll see your right to determine your own medical care growing steadily smaller.
(1) We are having a fentanyl epidemic, NOT an opioid epidemic. It should be called by its correct name.
(2) Numbers of prescription for opioid painkillers have declined by almost 30 percent since 2011. Total opioid deaths shot up during that same time. Big surprise.
NarxCare, is a prescription tracking tool that analyzes real-time data about opioids and other controlled substances from Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP’s).
Recent studies question the value of PDMP’s, but 49 states have implemented them so that physicians, pharmacists and insurers can see a patient's medication history. Granted, there is a need for monitoring the select few who doctor shop and/or abuse their medications, albeit that number is only in the 2 percent range.
What is NarxCare? Appriss Health developed NarxCare as a “robust analytics tool” to help “care teams” (doctors, pharmacists, etc.) identify patients with substance use disorders. Each patient is evaluated and given a “risk score” based on their prescription drug history. According to Appriss, a patient is much more willing to discuss their substance abuse issues once they are red flagged as a possible abuser.
“NarxCare automatically analyzes PDMP data and a patient’s health history and provides patient risk scores and an interactive visualization of usage patterns to help identify potential risk factors,” the company says on its website.
“NarxCare aids care teams in clinical decision making, provides support to help prevent or manage substance use disorder, and empowers states with the comprehensive platform they need to take to the next step in the battle against prescription drug addiction."
Sounds great doesn't it? Except prescription drugs are not the problem and never really have been. Illicit drug use has, is, and will continue to be the main cause of the addiction and overdose crisis.
Even the name NarxCare has a negative connotation. “Narx” stands for narcotics. And in today's environment, narcotics is a very negative word. NarxCare makes me feel like a narcotics police officer is just around the corner.
Each patient evaluated by NarxCare gets a “Narx Report” that includes their NarxScores, Overdose Risk Score, Rx Graph, PDMP Data and my favorite, the Red Flags. The scores are based on the past two years of a patient’s prescription history, as well as their medical claims, electronic health records and even their criminal history.
Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and several other states are using NarxCare to supplement their own PDMPs. And Walmart isn’t the only big retail company to adopt it. Kroger, Ralphs, Kmart, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens are already using NarxCare. There’s a good chance your prescriptions are already being tracked by NarxCare and you don’t even know it.
Rochelle Odell lives in California. She’s lived for nearly 25 years with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD).