Narcotics in Workers Compensation

Posted Date: June 5, 2012
    

Industry InformationResearch

Prescription drugs account for about 19% of workers compensation medical costs. In 2009, the narcotic OxyContin® was the most popular drug prescribed in workers compensation and another narcotic, Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, was the third most popular drug.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states, "the overuse of opioid therapy to treat chronic pain conditions is becoming epidemic in the United States," and, "there are many treatments that should be considered before opioids". According to this organization:

  • "Opioids are becoming more controversial in large part because of … markedly elevated death risks that have paralleled increases in consumption of opioids (narcotics)"
  • "Routine use of opioids for the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain conditions is not recommended"
  • "Opioids are recommended for select patients with chronic persistent pain, neuropathic pain, or CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome)."

Two years ago, NCCI released a study on the use of narcotics in workers compensation. Findings from that study include the following:

  • There is a correlation between drug abuse treatments and heavy narcotic use
  • There has been an increase in early narcotic use
  • The use of narcotics can continue for many years

Key Findings

This update on narcotic use in workers compensation finds:

  • Per-claim narcotic costs have increased
  • There have been changes in which narcotics are most commonly used
  • Narcotic use is concentrated among a small percentage of claimants
  • Initial narcotic use is indicative of future use