Opioid Dependency Causes 3,000% Increase In Medical Expenses

Opioid addiction is a big medical moneymaker.

New data revealed that opioid dependency diagnoses are way up, and all the medical services associated with opioid abuse are also on the rise, and possibly making bank for the medical industry. According to CNN, "Medical services for people with opioid dependence diagnoses skyrocketed more than 3,000 percent between 2007 and 2014."

The research looked at privately insured patients with opioid problems and gathered data from billing codes. Apparently, there were certainly a lot of "opioid dependency" codes thrown around. Those codes, according to research and insurance stats, represent money and time spent addressing and treating patients who have become addicted to prescription pharmaceutical painkillers.

And, if that isn’t clear: The opioid addiction category is a booming revenue generator and making a ton of money for insurance companies, medical labs, doctors, medical center parking structures, etc. To get an idea of scope, this data doesn’t even include the street-drug and illegal-pill epidemic.

From CNN

The primary diagnosis of opioid dependency kicks off a number of medical services, including office visits, lab tests and other related treatments. The report found that the number of such services rendered to patients with a dependency diagnosis went from about 217,000 in 2007 to about 7 million in 2014.

After a decade of doctors prescribing pain pills like they were candy, there’s been an effort do curb this epidemic. At least, lip service has been paid to reining in profligate prescription pads, but as CNN says: "Much of the increase in opioid dependence occurred since 2011, a period marked by increased attention to the problem and a growing drumbeat by advocates calling on doctors to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.”

There’s not enough data from this study to determine just how profitable opioid dependency has been to the medical industry, but large windfalls are certainly implied.

Again, from CNN

Experts caution that research based solely on claims data, while common, is a good way to track the use of health services, but may not paint a complete picture. The accuracy of claims codes—which are used for billing—may be poor, for example. In this case, increased attention to the opioid problem may have also resulted in an increased use of the code. Some research studies also pair claims data with medical record information—the doctors' notes—to provide additional information. This study did not.

Perhaps it's time to redefine opioid dependency claims codes, among other things—such as the role of pharmaceutical companies in creating a whole new class of return customers for America's medical industry.