Research: Opioid use leveling, not decreasing in workers' comp
The California Workers' Compensation Institute's latest data shows the dramatic increase in the use of opioids has at least stopped.
Schedule II opioid painkillers include fentanyl, oxycodone and morphine, and are classified by the Food and Drug Administration as controlled substances "due to their high potential for abuse and addiction," the report says. Schedule III opioids include such things as Vicodin and other forms of hydrocodone with acetaminophen which have less potential for abuse or addiction than Schedule II drugs.
"After quadrupling from 2002-2008, then climbing moderately from 2008-2010, the prevalence of Schedule II opioids in California WC appears to have stabilized, accounting for about 7 percent of all scripts and 19 percent of all payments for outpatient pharmaceuticals dispensed to injured workers over the last 2 years," the latest CWCI Bulletin says. However, previous indications that the use of the potentially addictive drugs was decreasing have turned out not to be true.
"Unlike the 2012 analysis, which indicated a potential drop off in the use of Schedule II opioids at the second half of 2011, the latest numbers show no such decline," the report says, "And as noted at the time, rather than signaling a reversal in the trend, the short-term decline in Schedule II opioid utilization suggested by the initial results for the last two quarters of 2011 may have been due to factors such as billing cycles for year-end services, data submission delays due to processing utilization review decisions, and liens."
Meanwhile, the use of the less addictive Schedule III prescriptions during the 11-year study span have been "remarkably stable," the authors say. The report says these prescriptions account for 17.8 percent of injured workers' prescriptions in the last quarter of 2012.
CWCI plans to issue a more detailed report on the 2002-12 use of Schedule II and Schedule III opioid prescriptions in the California workers' comp system soon.
By Nancy Grover
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 15, 2013
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