A new approach to opioid management

There’s an opioid crisis in Canada.1 Our new opioid management program helps protect you and your members.

April 7, 2022

For business owners, plan administrators, and sponsors

We’re looking at the problem in a new way. Instead of managing opioid use by limiting access, our focus is on prevention and early intervention.

We believe promoting the safe and smart use of opioids for members who are using them for the first time or haven’t had an opioid prescription for six months, protects their health and well-being.

They’ll be better able to recover and get back to work sooner, healthier, and with less chance of addiction or health issues caused by overuse and side effects. And when that happens, they’re better able to continue bringing their best to work each day, helping to drive their organization’s success.

Our opioid management program will automatically be added to all pay direct drug plans (Except in Quebec) on April 1, 2019.

21.5 million

opioid prescriptions dispensed in 20162

3998 Canadians

died from opioid-related overdoses in 20173

How opioid management helps protect your plan

By helping prevent chronic or long-term use, we’re not only helping members get back to work quicker and healthier. We’re also protecting you, our sponsors, from several other costs associated with opioid use.

When fewer plan members need ongoing, long-term treatment, their plan’s drug costs and potential addiction management costs will be lower. And there will be less drug waste, with fewer unused opioids lingering in households, where they potentially pose a safety risk to other family members and their communities.

2 steps we’re taking to help members manage their opioid prescriptions:

  • Start with a short-term supply.
    By initially filling a small portion (up to 7 days) of a prescription, pharmacists have an early opportunity to check in on any side effects a member may have and monitor their risk of tolerance and dependence. It’s not about limiting access. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most acute pain that needs opioid use ends in 3-5 days. More than 7 days is rarely needed.4 But often, more than this amount is prescribed. We’re taking steps to help verify a member needs ongoing pain relief before they fill the rest of their prescription.
  • Try short-acting opioids first.
    It’s considered the most effective way to produce the best health results for people who are prescribed opioids. For someone who is not a current opioid user, long-acting opioids can present a serious health risk. Harmful reactions, like a lowered breathing rate or overdose, are greatly increased. And tolerance for and dependence on opioids can build quickly.5 By requiring a short-acting opioid trial period first, we’re helping to reduce the risk of side effects and chronic use.

Manulife’s leading-edge opioid management program was developed in collaboration with Express Scripts Canada®. This proactive solution is in place to help improve plan member awareness of the risks associated with opioids. It provides a balance between control and appropriate use for members with a new opioid prescription and promotes the proper use of opioids for members who truly need them for ongoing pain management.

Next steps

As the program grows, we’ll share our insights on opioid use with you and provide education materials for your members.

If you have any questions, contact your Manulife representative.

  1. 1 Canada’s opioid crisis. Government of Canada
  2. 2 Pan-Canadian Trends in the Prescribing of Opioids, 2012 to 2016. Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2016
  3. 3 National report: apparent opioid-related deaths. Health Canada, December 2018
  4. 4 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 18, 2016
  5. 5 Opioids Monograph. Canadian Pharmacists Association, September 2018

  6. ® 2019 Express Scripts Canada. All rights reserved.