As part of its effort to curb the potential for opioid abuse among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has reached a deal with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to monitor the prescription drugs veterans receive outside the VA system.
Under the arrangement, which was formalized in March, the VA now has the ability to check on the prescriptions veterans get through Medicare Part D, the VA said in an April 30 news release.
"Leveraging data is a key element of CMS' efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and we look forward to continued collaboration with VA on this important issue," Kimberly Brandt, principal deputy administrator for operations and policy at CMS, said in the release.
She said the agreement with the VA will usher in "a new level of information sharing between VA and CMS, which will improve care coordination and better protect our beneficiaries."
Currently, more than five million veterans receive prescription medications through the VA. When the Medicare Part D benefit covering outpatient prescription drugs was set up in 2006, veterans enrolled with both the VA and Medicare had dual access to prescription drugs, the VA said.
The dual access created "the potential for adverse drug interactions, duplication of use and greater risk of adverse drug events, including overdoses," it added.
The agreement with CMS "greatly enhances medication safety for veterans by providing better oversight of drugs that veterans may be able to obtain from both agencies," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.
More than half of those enrolled at the VA are also covered by Medicare and can choose to get their prescriptions from the VA or from Medicare-approved providers, according to a study funded by the VA and published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"Such dual-system care may lead to unsafe opioid use if providers in these two systems do not coordinate care or if prescription use is not tracked between systems," the study states.
At the White House last October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.
"Nobody has seen anything like what is going on now, [but] we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said at a White House East Room ceremony.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths attributable to opioids occurred in 2017.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.