Compounding Pharmacists Battle for Solution to Painkiller Overuse: Hootan Melamed

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Chronic or acute pains can debilitate a person and compromise the quality of life. Across the United States, opioids have been prescribed as painkillers for the last many years to overcome the pain. However, the excessive use of opioids gives rise to the potential for abuse. At the same time, even genuine patients are at the risk of getting addicted to these opioids.

Compounding pharmacy may be able to provide credible solutions to this problem by creating non-addictive solutions and different delivery forms that discourage abuse. Leading compounding pharmacist and Beverly Hills entrepreneur Dr. Hootan Melamed has been a consistent proponent of this idea. Dr. Melamed has been engaged in research and development of compounding pain medications for several years.

Cutting Back Coverage

Some of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the country are intent on reducing coverage for a range of chemicals and ingredients that are used in compounding drugs designed to manage pain. Benefit managers such as OptumRx and Express Scripts have either dropped or cut back on coverage for compounding medications significantly.

Limited Access

Dr. Hootan Melamed says that there is an increasing concern in the compounding pharmacy industry about the reduced access to patients for compounding pain medications. This is happening probably because of the firm approach of the benefit managers to curtail coverage for these medications. However, Dr. Melamed insists that opioids can potentially be replaced with safer compounding alternatives if a supportive business environment is provided.

Reducing Opioid Abuse

One of the leading supporters of the idea of using compounding medications to reduce opioid abuse is John Voliva, director of legislative relations for the Professional Compounding Centers of America, a leading trade group that represents nearly 4,000 independent pharmacists. Voliva says that changing the delivery form of an oral painkiller with abuse potential into a topical cream with compounding medication can cut down the chances of abuse.

Financial Concerns of Benefit Managers

In recent years, pharmacy benefit managers have witnessed considerable cost escalation because of the rising demand for compounding drugs. This could be one of the reasons behind their steps to limit coverage for compounding drugs. Major pharmacy benefit manager Catamaran has reported that its costs for compounding drugs rose five-fold among its commercial clients on an annual basis. OptumRx has also said that the use of compounding medications among its members has increased by over one-third just within a 12-month period from 2012 to 2013.

Compounding Industry Growth Rates

The average yearly growth rate of the compounding industry in the United States was 1.5% from 2009 to 2014, as per the data released by IBIS World. The report of IBIS World also estimated that the growth rate of the industry between 2015 and 2019 could be much higher at 3.5% per annum, with revenues of $6.2 billion.

The chorus for supporting compounding pain medications to address the challenges posed by opioids has grown shrill over the previous decade. According to the CDC, more than 12 million Americans used prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes in 2010, costing $72 billion in medical expenses to the insurance companies.

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