Prescription Opioid Use Among Injured Workers Decreased In Many States, But Not All, Finds New WCRI Study

As states implement reforms to address issues related to overuse and misuse of opioids, a new study released today by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) observed decreases in the frequency and amount of opioids dispensed to injured workers in a majority of study states. However, higher utilization of opioids and other high-risk utilization patterns were seen in some states in the most recent study period.

“This report serves as a tool to monitor ongoing policy changes on opioid utilization in 26 state workers’ compensation systems. By comparing variations in the use of opioids across the states, this study can help policymakers and stakeholders be better informed about the level of opioid use in their states and better target future efforts to address issues related to prescription opioids in their states,” said Ramona Tanabe, WCRI’s executive vice president and in-house counsel.

The study, Interstate Variations in Use of Opioids, 4th Edition, examines interstate variations and trends in the use of opioids and prescribing patterns of pain medications across 26 state workers’ compensation systems covering data from October 2009 through March 2015.

The following are sample findings from the study:


  • Comparing opioid utilization for workers injured in 2010 and 2013 over an average two-year period following the injury, the study found reductions in the average amount of opioids dispensed to injured workers in several states, with larger reductions seen in Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, and New York.
  • Despite the reductions, opioid use was prevalent among nonsurgical claims with more than seven days of lost time. In 2013/2015, about 65 to 75 percent of these injured workers with pain medications received at least one opioid…

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