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CWCI study discovers drop in certain prescriptions for injured workers

In previous posts, we've discussed how state lawmakers, health officials, employer/employee advocacy groups and the general public are all becoming increasingly concerned over the high rate at which prescriptions for narcotic painkillers are being issued to those who have suffered serious work injuries here in California.

Now, a new study suggests that this rise in painkiller prescriptions may finally be showing signs of abating.

According to a recently released study by the California Workers' Compensation Institute (CWCI), the rate at which Schedule II opioid painkillers -- including Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Morphine -- are being prescribed to injured workers has undergone a significant drop over the last few years.

Here, CWCI researchers determined that use of Schedule II painkillers to treat work injuries hit its peak in the second quarter of 2010, comprising 5.8 percent of all work comp prescriptions and 19.7 percent of all prescription payments. However, in the fourth quarter of 2011, they comprised only 3.4 percent of all work comp prescriptions and 12 percent of all prescription payments.

What exactly is behind this rather sizable decline in the number of Schedule II opioid painkiller prescriptions?

Interestingly, the authors concluded that it wasn't any single regulatory action or new law that precipitated the reduction, but rather a concerted effort by work comp insurers to increase oversight and cost containment of Schedule II opioid painkillers.

They also theorize that an increased awareness about the dangers associated with this particular class of drugs may have resulted in greater vigilance on the part of physicians and patients, and fostered a greater acceptance of alternative methods of treatment.

It is worth noting that the CWCI researchers also determined that the use of Schedule III painkillers to treat work injuries -- meaning those defined by the FDA as addictive but less likely to be abused -- remained relatively static. Specifically, drugs like Vicodin comprised 20 percent of all work comp prescriptions and roughly 12 percent of all prescription payments.

Stay tuned for more our workers' compensation defense blog ...

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


California Workers' Compensation Institute, "Changes in Schedule II & III opioid prescriptions and payments in Calif.," July 10, 2012

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