PRICE OF VICODIN® IN PENNSYLVANIA THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS
WHEN DISPENSED BY A DOCTOR VERSUS A PHARMACY
CAMBRIDGE, MA, September 4, 2013
— A 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
Pennsylvania, was more than three times as high as the price
paid for the same drug dispensed at a pharmacy ($1.22 versus
$0.37 per pill).
“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.”
According to the WCRI study, Physician Dispensing in the
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation System, physician
dispensing has been growing rapidly in Pennsylvania. In
2011, physicians dispensed 23 percent of workers’
compensation prescriptions and were paid 38 percent of what
was spent for all prescriptions for injured workers. This
was an increase from 17 percent of all prescriptions and 18
percent of total prescription costs three years earlier.
Prices paid to physician-dispensers for many common drugs
also increased over the study period while prices paid to
pharmacies for the same drugs changed little or decreased.
For example, the average price paid for physician-dispensed
Vicodin® increased 47 percent in three years. Over the same
period of time, the average price paid for the same drug
dispensed at pharmacies changed little at 2 percent. Similar
patterns were seen for many common drugs.
also found that a number of drugs with over-the-counter
strength were commonly dispensed by Pennsylvania physicians
at a higher price compared with the price at a pharmacy for
the same drug. One such drug was Prilosec OTC®, which costs
about $0.67 per pill at Walgreens. However, when
Pennsylvania physicians dispensed the drug, they were paid
an average of $7.43 per pill.
The data used for this report came from payors in
Pennsylvania that represented 41 percent of the claims in
the state workers’ compensation system. There were 40,470
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
To purchase a full copy of this study, click on the
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.