Longer-Term Dispensing of Opioids to Injured Workers Decreased in Several States, Says New WCRI Study

As states institute numerous opioid policies and initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, a new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) observed considerable decreases in the prevalence of longer-term dispensing of opioids to injured workers in a number of states studied.

The study, Longer-Term Dispensing of Opioids, 4th Edition, examines the prevalence and trends of longer-term dispensing of opioids in 26 state workers’ compensation systems. It also documents how often the services (i.e., drug testing, psychological evaluation and treatment, etc.) recommended by treatment guidelines were used for managing chronic opioid therapy. This study also serves as a tool to monitor the results of recent public policy changes regarding the use and long-term use of opioids.

“Research finds that high doses and prolonged use of opioids may lead to addiction, increased disability or work loss, and even death,” said Ramona Tanabe, WCRI’s executive vice president and counsel. “The information in this report can help policymakers and other stakeholders compare the trend of longer-term dispensing of opioids in their state to other states, and learn what policy tools are available to reduce unnecessary opioid use.”

The following is a sample of the study’s major findings:

  • The frequency of claims that received opioids on a longer-term basis decreased more than 4 percentage points in Kentucky and New York. The same measure decreased 2–3 percentage points in several other states (Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Tennessee). Noticeable decreases in the longer-term dispensing of opioids were also seen in several other states, including California, Florida, and Texas, with reductions of 1–2 percentage points.
  • Among claims with injuries in 2013 that were observed over a two-year time period ending March 2015, longer-term dispensing of opioids was most prevalent in Louisiana—1 in 6 injured workers with opioid prescriptions were identified as receiving longer-term opioids. Compared with most study states, the number was also higher in California, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. By contrast, about 1 in 25 injured workers with opioid prescriptions received them on a…

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