Cigna asks health providers to help cut opioid overdoses by 2021

June 21 (UPI) — Insurer Cigna said Thursday it will ramp up its fight against the opioid crisis with a new effort to cut overdoses by 25 percent in the next three years.

Cigna announced in March it’s already reduced opioid use by 25 percent among its insured. But despite that progress, it said Thursday, overdoses continue to rise.

Dr. Doug Nemecek, Cigna’s chief medical officer for behavioral health, told The Hill although company efforts have narrowed opioid prescribing, there’s still work to do.

Cigna said in a statement it aims to cut overdoses by 25 percent by 2021. It will focus on areas where many customers live and where overdose rates are higher than average.

Cigna said it will target communities in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia and the cities of Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Nearly 64,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States in 2016, and approximately two-thirds were linked to opioids, Cigna said.

“Behind every number, there are real people struggling along with families, employers and communities,” Cigna CEO David M. Cordani said. “Our commitment to reduce drug overdoses by 25 percent is a commitment to each and every one of them.”

Cigna will also ask providers to pledge to reduce opioid prescriptions and treat opioid use as a chronic condition. More than 9,000 have signed so far.