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Report: State work comp systems show different prescribing patterns for pain meds

If an employee has suffered a serious work injury, they will more than likely have to spend time away from their position and undergo comprehensive medical treatment that may or may not include physical therapy. In addition, the injured employee may also need certain medications such as anti-inflammatories and/or narcotics to help manage their pain.

While these medications are no doubt a vital component of recovery, they must also be carefully managed and judiciously prescribed by physicians in order to protect the health and welfare of the injured employee.

However, a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) indicated that this may not be occurring.

WCRI researchers examined exactly 75,000 nonsurgical work comp claims filed in 17 states with larger populations from October 2005 through September 2006 to learn more about the prescribing patterns of physicians.

Specifically, these claims involved employees who missed at least one week due to a work injury and who were given at least one paid prescription for a narcotic/pain medication.

WCRI discovered the following:

  • Injured employees in at least four of the 17 states (Louisiana, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania) were prescribed significantly more narcotics/pain medications (80 to 125 percent more) than the median of the 17 states
  • Injured employees in seven of the states (California, Louisiana, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas) were prescribed narcotics/pain medication for a substantially longer term than the median of the 17 states
  • Injured employees who were prescribed narcotics/pain medication on a longer basis frequently went without the monitoring otherwise recommended by the national medical guidelines (drug screening, psychiatric evaluation, etc.)

The WCRI report concludes that more research is ultimately needed to determine whether abuse/addiction of prescription narcotics is a problem in the states with higher amounts of prescribed narcotics and offers some suggestions for addressing the problem.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

WCRI study highlights variations in narcotics use among comp systems (Risk and Insurance)

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