The Search for Ways To Deter Over-Prescription Of Opioids in Work Comp Continues…

FJ Thomas

A recent study released by California Workers Comp Institute (CWCI) indicates that despite efforts to curb opioid use and abuse, painkillers are still the #1 drug prescribed for work comp patients that receive multiple prescriptions.

According to the study, multiple prescriptions were common among older work comp patients, and patients that had back injuries, tendon ruptures, and chronic inflammatory conditions such as tendonitis, myositis and bursitis.

California is not the only state to see similar results. In 2016, NCCI data showed that injured workers received three times the average US opioid prescription level, in addition to the other medications they were receiving.

While opioid abuse has been very widely publicized, work comp regulators are now obtaining hard data showing the direct impact among injured workers

Some are now attempting to address the problem through work comp regulations on several levels, according to a recent article series from NCCI. Many states either already have or are in the process of establishing legislation that limits opioid prescription numbers, however some states are taking a more developed approach that involves not only pharmacies and providers, but payers as well.

Kentucky, Colorado, and Maine have utilized Prescription Drug Management Programs, or PDMPs that track prescriptions issued by providers. Although cumbersome to implement, in some cases the programs have been successful according to a WCRI August 2017 report.

In addition to developing PDMPs, some work comp regulators are addressing the issue with payers and providers through their own medical treatment guidelines.

Paul Tauriello, Director of the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation, told, “By addressing the medical treatment guidelines, especially in regards to patients coming out of the acute phase of care into the chronic phase of care, payers can take some control and not pay for things they really should not be paying for.” By impacting costs for payers and ultimately reimbursement for providers, regulators feel they can be more effective in curbing the amount of opioids prescribed.


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