NARCOTIC PAIN MEDICATIONS RESULT IN SOARING CLAIMS COSTS
By Thomas P. Vecchio
The New York Times recently reported that when potent narcotics like Oxycotin are prescribed for routine workplace injuries, both wage loss and medical costs associated with the claim rise dramatically.
Workers' compensation carriers spend $1.4 billion annually on narcotic pain medications such as Oxycotin, Percocet, and Duragesic. Studies show, however, that if such medications are prescribed too early in the course of treatment or for too long, the injured employee's return to work is significantly delayed. Studies revealed that when employees with routine injuries such as back strain/sprain are prescribed narcotics, they stay out of work for significantly longer periods of time than employees given low doses of narcotics or no narcotics at all.
This article was based in part on a study from The California Workers' Compensation Institute which showed that when strong narcotics are used for treatment of injuries, overall costs associated with the claim rise by a whopping 900%. The Chairman of this research study explained that, "what we see is an association between the greater use of opioids and delayed recovery from workplace injuries."
The evidence suggests that long term use of narcotics provides no lasting benefit and creates additional problems such as addiction and accidental overdose deaths. Recent data shows that approximately nine Floridians are dying each day from accidental overdose associated with prescription medications, particularly strong opioids.
Prescriptions for drugs like Vicodin, Oxycotin, and Percocet constitute a "red flag" that should immediately draw your attention to a potentially troublesome claim. The treating physician should understand that his or her prescribing practices will be closely monitored to ensure that the Claimant does not become a long-term narcotic user. Florida has taken dramatic legislative steps over the past year to curb abuses associated with improper narcotic prescriptions, and physicians who treat injured workers are undoubtedly mindful of the concerns raised with long-term narcotic use.