Cambridge, MA, August 3, 2017―As states institute numerous opioid policies and initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, a new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) observed considerable decreases in the prevalence of longer-term dispensing of opioids to injured workers in a number of states studied.
The study, Longer-Term Dispensing of Opioids, 4th Edition, examines the prevalence and trends of longer-term dispensing of opioids in 26 state workers’ compensation systems. It also documents how often the services (i.e., drug testing, psychological evaluation and treatment, etc.) recommended by treatment guidelines were used for managing chronic opioid therapy. This study also serves as a tool to monitor the results of recent public policy changes regarding the use and long-term use of opioids.
“Research finds that high doses and prolonged use of opioids may lead to addiction, increased disability or work loss, and even death,” said Ramona Tanabe, WCRI’s executive vice president and counsel. “The information in this report can help policymakers and other stakeholders compare the trend of longer-term dispensing of opioids in their state to other states, and learn what policy tools are available to reduce unnecessary opioid use.”
The following is a sample of the study’s major findings:
- The frequency of claims that received opioids on a longer-term basis decreased more than 4 percentage points in Kentucky and New York. The same measure decreased 2–3 percentage points in several other states (Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Tennessee). Noticeable decreases in the longer-term dispensing of opioids were also seen in several other states, including California, Florida, and Texas, with reductions of 1–2 percentage points.
- Among claims with injuries in 2013 that were observed over a two-year time period ending March 2015, longer-term dispensing of opioids was most prevalent in Louisiana—1 in 6 injured workers with opioid prescriptions were identified as receiving longer-term opioids. Compared with most study states, the number was also higher in California, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. By contrast, about 1 in 25 injured workers with opioid prescriptions received them on a longer-term basis in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.
- The study continued to find that fewer than expected injured workers who received opioids on a longer-term basis had certain services (i.e., drug testing, psychological evaluation and treatment, etc.) recommended by treatment guidelines for chronic opioid management. For example, in 19 out of 26 states, less than 10 percent of injured workers with longer-term opioids received psychological evaluations.
This study uses data comprising over 400,000 nonsurgical workers’ compensation claims with more than seven days of lost time, and over 2 million prescriptions are associated with these claims from 26 states. These claims had injuries in 2010 and 2013 and received on average up to 24 months of medical treatment. The sample of claims in the study represents 36–69 percent of workers’ compensation claims in each state.
The 26 states in the study are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
To learn more about this study or to purchase a copy, visit https://www.wcrinet.org/reports/longer-term-dispensing-of-opioids.
The Cambridge-based WCRI is recognized as a leader in providing high-quality, objective information about public policy issues involving workers’ compensation systems.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA. Organized in 1983, the Institute 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.