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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 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.

The study 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 systems.  

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