Misuse of powerful prescription painkillers, whether intentional or accidental, is a rapidly growing threat to employers throughout the nation.
Opioid overdoses caused more than 16,000 deaths in 2010, the latest year for which data is available; and about 12 million people use prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons. In addition to the human tragedy, opioid addiction creates a significant financial problem for both businesses – in terms of lost productivity – and their insurance companies. Nonmedical use of prescription painkillers costs Health insurers more than $70 billion a year; while narcotics prescriptions account for one-fourth of Workers Comp prescription drug expenses (costs that ultimately come out of employers’ pockets).
Government plays a significant role in dealing with this problem. The federal Department of Health and Human Services regulates Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) through the Division of Pharmacologic Therapies. On the state level, for example, California has followed the lead of Washington State by devising treatment guidelines to curb over-prescription and abuse of opioids. These measures include limiting opioid prescriptions to six weeks after surgery or injury and using non-opioid painkillers as a preliminary pain management measure in non-acute cases.
However, these regulatory or legislative efforts can only go so far. No employer can afford to ignore the issue of opioid abuse among its workers – and your Workers Compensation manager is well-positioned to intervene in these cases by implementing a risk management plan that:
- ensures that patients are treated early and effectively;
- monitors and manages opioid prescriptions;
- uses predictive modeling to tag potentially severe claims;
- requires physician peer reviews for opioid prescriptions;
- uses drug testing and screening workers prescribed with drugs;
- provides post-addiction help; and
- phases workers back into their jobs
We stand ready to offer our advice at any time.