But the state did make some progress recently. Missouri HB 1568 creates a "standing order" for naloxone. There's a legitimate debate regarding standing orders for naloxone, but regardless of where you stand in that debate, there's little doubt we're going to see more and more of these across the country. So let's establish some definitions and pose some interesting questions for the payer community.
First, looking up "standing order" in an average dictionary isn't terribly useful. We're looking for a clinically oriented definition and I found the best one at medical-dictionary.com:
"a written document containing rules, policies, procedures, regulations, and orders for the conduct of patient care in various stipulated clinical situations. The standing orders are usually formulated collectively by the professional members of a department in a hospital or other health care facility. Standing orders usually name the condition and prescribe the action to be taken in caring for the patient, including the dosage and route of administration for a drug or the schedule for the administration of a therapeutic procedure. Standing orders are commonly used in intensive care units, coronary care units, and emergency departments."Translation: Pre-approved treatments that can be dispensed and administered by non-physicians because a doctor said it was ok ahead of time.
The language in Missouri is indicative of what we're likely to see elsewhere: "Notwithstanding any other law or regulation to the contrary, any licensed pharmacist in Missouri may sell and dispense an opioid antagonist under physician protocol" and "Notwithstanding any other law or regulation to the contrary, it shall be permissible for any person to possess an opioid antagonist." Additonally, the bill also contains language that relinquishes pharmacists from any liability associated with dispensing naloxone as well as protection of individuals who administer naloxone. This is an important component of any legislation in this area.
Translation: Want naloxone? Show up at a pharmacy in Missouri with some money and you can have some. No questions asked. And no one is going to get arrested or sued for dispensing or administering the drug.
But this begs several important questions for the work comp payer community.
First: How much is naloxone going to cost? Are we talking generic syringes? Or EVZIO auto-injector pens? This "standing order" in Missouri spells out the ingredient a patient can obtain, but not any preferred form of administration. Notably, the cost of this stuff is skyrocketing.
Second: Who is going to pay for this, ultimately? If an injured worker pays for EVZIO pens out of pocket via a standing order, will he submit for reimbursement to the employer/carrier? How will this be handled?
Third: Will we submit this to utilization review? Are the guidelines sufficiently thorough to cover this type of scenario? (I can answer that one, actually: no, they're not). So where does that leave us? Do we really want to deny payment and then have the unthinkable happen? Imagine the headlines. "Work Comp Screws Up Again: Injured Worker Dies of Overdose After Employer Denies Payment for Life Saving Antidote."
No one wants that. But we also want to ensure we're addressing the underlying issue. Why do we have injured workers on sufficiently high doses of opioid medications that the patient (or, likely, a loved one) feels the need to take advantage of a "standing order" and obtain naloxone from the local pharmacy?
Which brings us to a fourth question: Does the employer have an obligation (ethically, not necessarily legally) to inform the prescribing physician that the injured worker has obtained naloxone via a standing order? "Hey doc, just thought you'd be interested to know... Injured Worker Joe? Yeah, his wife just picked up a pack of two EVZIO pens at Walgreens. We're going to reimburse them the $800, but thought you might interested in your patient's perception of overdose risk." That's a pickle: the reality is that the adjuster may be the only one that knows about both the opioid scripts and the naloxone secured via a standing order.
Unintended consequences abound.
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