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WCRI Media Releases
September 4, 2013


CAMBRIDGE, MA, September 4, 2013A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) says the average price paid for physician-dispensed Vicodin®, a commonly dispensed narcotic pain medication in Maryland, was nearly three times more than the price paid for the same drug dispensed at a pharmacy ($1.46 versus $0.37 per pill). 

According to the study, Physician Dispensing in the Maryland Workers’ Compensation System, the average prices paid to physician-dispensers were often more than double the prices paid for the same drugs dispensed at a pharmacy. Issues related to physician dispensing in Maryland have been debated, but no change has been made. 

“In many states across the country, policymakers are debating whether doctors should be paid significantly more than pharmacies for dispensing the same drug,” said Dr. Richard Victor, WCRI’s executive director. “One question for policymakers is whether the large price difference paid when physicians dispense is justified by the benefits of physician dispensing.” 

The study found that prices paid to physician-dispensers for many common drugs increased over the study period while prices paid to pharmacies for the same drugs typically decreased over the same period. For example, the average price paid for physician-dispensed Flexeril®, a common muscle relaxant, increased by 16 percent in three years. Over the same period of time, the average price paid for the same drug dispensed at pharmacies decreased by 15 percent.   

The study also found that a number of drugs with over-the-counter strength were commonly dispensed by Maryland physicians at a higher price compared with the price at a pharmacy for the same drug. One such drug was Zantac®, which costs about $0.35 per pill at Walgreens. However, when dispensed by Maryland physicians, the same drug costs $3.40 per pill. 

The data used for this report came from payors in Maryland that represented 37 percent of the claims in the state workers’ compensation system. There were 16,860 claims included that had more than seven days of lost time with injuries arising from October 1, 2007, to September 30, 2011, and prescriptions filled through March 31, 2012.     

The Cambridge-based WCRI is recognized as a leader in providing objective, credible, and high-quality information about public policy issues involving workers’ compensation systems.

To purchase a full copy of this study, click on the following link: http://www.wcrinet.org/result/phys_disp_md_result.html


WCRI is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA. Organized in late 1983, WCRI does not take positions on the issues it researches; rather, it provides information obtained through studies and data collection efforts, which conform to recognized scientific methods. Objectivity is further ensured through rigorous, unbiased peer review procedures. WCRI’s diverse membership includes employers; insurers; governmental entities; managed care companies; health care providers; insurance regulators; state labor organizations; and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  


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