New report shows how Regence helped reduce opioid prescriptions 51 percent from 2015-2020

By Regence
May 19, 2021
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The epidemic of opioid deaths has quietly escalated unabated during COVID-19

While health care headlines have appropriately focused on the pandemic of COVID-19 the past year, the epidemic of opioid deaths has quietly escalated unabated.

Analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by the Commonwealth Fund indicates that the number of U.S. deaths from opioids may have topped 90,000 in 2020. The increase began shortly after the start of the pandemic, peaking in May and remaining high throughout the year. CDC data show that more than 81,000 Americans died from overdoses in the 12 months ending in May 2020.

Isolation—the very thing that can help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus—can contribute to people turning to drugs or make it difficult to seek the care they need, experts say.

Regence understands the significance of this crisis and that we have a role to play in helping curb it. For several years, we have worked to do our part through medication policy and management, broad education and awareness, and supporting community nonprofit organizations on the front lines of addiction support and prevention.

We’ve prepared a detailed report highlighting our perspective and our accomplishments to date on this important topic. We invite you to learn more about how Regence is supporting our prescribers, pharmacists, members and our communities.

You can also read more about opioids and find helpful information at our new opioids response page on

Regence opioid reduction

We’re proud of the fact that through our multifaceted approach we reduced the number of opioid prescriptions 51 percent from 2015-2020. We haven’t done this alone; we’ve worked to educate pharmacists and providers, shared data and resources that have empowered them to make informed decisions about pain management and what’s best for their patients.

We also recognize that there are cases in which opioids are appropriate, such as for cancer care and other conditions, so we are thoughtful about how we approach this issue. But we also see the big picture, and we want to do what we can to ensure our members and communities understand the risks.

Education is a big part of our work. Whether through sponsored events, creation of resources for members, or support of initiatives to safely dispose of old or unneeded medication to keep them out of the wrong hands, we are making sure to increase awareness in our communities.