Opioid Management

Opioid misuse impacts members Canada-wide.
We’re taking steps to help protect you and your members.

November 1, 2021

For business owners, plan administrators, and sponsors


We want to help members Canada-wide improve their health outcomes when their pain management plan includes opioids. 

To do that, we’ll be automatically adding our Opioid Management program to all pay direct drug plans which include Quebec division, effective April 1, 2021.

Launched April 1, 2019 in all other Canada provinces, our program helped with smarter and safer use of opioids in several ways. It helped reduce the initial day’s supply submitted by 11 days. Also, 92% of members impacted by the day’s supply cutback did not go into the pharmacy for the balance of their prescription. The program also identified 6000 claims for long acting opioid submitted for members who where prescribed opioids for the first time or haven’t had an opioid prescription for six months.1

How opioid management helps protect your plan  

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. 

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:

  1. 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 member needs for ongoing pain relief before they fill the rest of their prescription
  2. 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. 

Educational information for your members

Details about the program, and educational information about the dangers of opioid use, are available in the plan member section of Manulife’s public website. There’s also a short quiz where members can test their knowledge about safe opioid use and the current opioid epidemic. 

Encourage your members to visit www.manulife.ca/opioids to learn more.

If you have any questions, contact your Manulife representative. 

  1. 1 Manulife Opioid Management program – April 2019 - December 2020
  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 (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/data-surveillance-research/harms-deaths.html#s1.3). Health Canada, December 2018
  4. 4 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – United States (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6501e1.htm). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 18, 2016
  5. 5 Opioids Monograph (https://www.e-therapeutics.ca/search). Canadian Pharmacists Association, September 2018

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