06:39 AM

BCBSAZ Reports Nearly 1 out of 6 Members Fill an Opioid Prescription Annually in Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) reports that nearly one out of six (14.3 percent) of its commercially insured members in Arizona filled at least one opioid prescription in 2015.

“While opioids may be an appropriate treatment in limited cases, great care should be taken to ensure proper dosage is followed,” said BCBSAZ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vishu Jhaveri. “Opioid use is a complex issue that requires collaboration not only among medical professionals, insurers and employers, but the community at-large, families, friends and care givers.”

BCBSAZ’s medical data finds that:

• Middle age and senior populations have higher rates of opioid usage.

• Males younger than 45 have higher rates of opioid use disorder than females.

• Females fill more opioid prescriptions than males across all age groups.

• Opioid use is consistent throughout all Arizona counties.

• Hydrocodone/acetaminophen, which is prescribed to relieve moderate and severe pain, is the most commonly filled opioid prescription.

• Fentora, a drug that contains an opioid to manage pain in adults with cancer, is the most expensive opioid at $22,000 per prescription.

With abuse and misuse on the rise across the country, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released a national report this week called, “America’s Opioid Epidemic and Its Effect on the Nation’s Commercially Insured Population.” The study looks at national medical claims from Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members using opioid painkillers, as well as those diagnosed with opioid use disorder over a seven-year period.* This is the thirteenth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® series.

The BCBS Association study reveals that:

• Nationally, opioid use disorder diagnoses among BCBS commercially insured members spiked 493 percent from 2010 through 2016.

• Long-duration prescription opioid use and opioid use disorder overlap by region, with the highest rates in the South and the Appalachian Region.

• States that have experienced the greatest growth in the use of medication-assisted treatments are not necessarily the areas most impacted by opioid use disorders. High rates of treatment relative to opioid use disorder occur in New England, and lower rates occur in the South and parts of the Midwest.

Jhaveri continued, “At BCBSAZ we are using these studies to help us refine our patient safety programs and target our provider education. For example, we are notifying primary care physicians with patients who are potentially taking opioids and other prescription drugs that are dangerous or life-threatening when taken together. By drawing attention to a patient’s situation, along with supporting medical literature, the provider can determine if an alternative course of treatment is necessary.”

*Members diagnosed with cancer or who were undergoing palliative or hospice care were excluded from this analysis.


About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is committed to helping Arizonans get healthier faster and stay healthier longer. With a focus on connecting people with the care they need, BCBSAZ offers health insurance and related services to nearly 1.5 million customers. BCBSAZ, a not-for-profit company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The company employs nearly 1,500 people in its Phoenix, Chandler, Flagstaff and Tucson offices. Through advanced clinical programs and community outreach, BCBSAZ is moving health forward. To learn more, visit

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for one-in-three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health IndexSM. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog. For more information, visit

About BHI

Health Intelligence Company is the nation’s premier health intelligence resource, delivering data-driven insights about healthcare trends and best practices, resulting in healthier lives and more affordable access to safe and effective care. HIC accesses healthcare claims data from more than 140 million individuals nationwide, collected over nine years, in a safe, HIPAA compliant and secure database. The resulting conformed, reliable data set has the broadest, deepest pool of integrated medical and pharmacy claims, reflecting medical utilization in every ZIP code. Health Intelligence Company, LLC operates under the trade name Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) and is an Independent Licensee of BCBSA. For more information, visit