Workers’ compensation programs have been caught up in the opioid epidemic as doctors began prescribing opioids pain killers to injured workers. Due to the highly-addictive nature of the medicines, some workers became dependent on the drugs. As the numbers of deaths from opioid overdoses have spiked recently, state governments have instituted policies to curb the epidemic by imposing limits on the use of opioid pain killers for long term pain management for injured workers. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) has been examining the trends in long-term dispensing of opioids to injured workers in 26 state workers’ compensation programs and the study has found considerable decreases in some of the states involved in the study, Longer-Term Dispensing of Opioids, 4th Edition.
The found that the frequency of claims that received opioids on a long-term basis decreased more than four percent in Kentucky and New York, between two and three percent in six other states and about a single percentage point in Pennsylvania. The study also found that fewer injured workers who were receiving opioids on a long-term basis were being given drug testing and psychological evaluation and treatment, which are recommended for chronic opioid management.
Ramona Tanabe, WCRI’s executive vice president said of the report, “Research finds that high doses and prolonged use of opioids may lead to addiction, increased disability or work loss, and even death. The information in this report can help policymakers and other stakeholders compare the trend of longer-term dispensing of opioids in their state to other states, and learn what policy tools are available to reduce unnecessary opioid use.”
An article in Business Insurance reports that those in charge of opioid prescribing for injured workers in workers’ compensation are doing a better job at reducing the use of the powerful painkillers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that providers overall still need to reduce the amount and strength of prescriptions. Anne Schuchat, M.D., acting director of the CDC was quoted in Business Insurance as saying “The amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. is still too high, with too many opioid prescriptions for too many days at too high a dosage, Healthcare providers have an important role in offering safer and more effective pain management while reducing risks of opioid addiction and overdose.”
From a cost perspective, the workers’ compensation industry has an incentive to demand changes in clinical practices regarding the dosages of pain killers, and the CDC from a public health perspective has an incentive to encourage clinicians to lower dosages and strengths of pain medications to help curb the number of overdose deaths from opioid pain killers.
Workers’ compensation cases can be quite complicated. Injured workers need pain management that will not place them in danger of addiction and overdose. The skilled Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates can help you obtain the compensation you deserve after a workplace injury. We offer free consultations. To learn more, call 888.PITT.LAW or complete our contact form. We proudly represent injured workers throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.