|Post by Anne Marie Hempy|
Over the past few weeks, the morning and nightly news programs have devoted much of their programming to Michael Jackson’s death and Dr. Conrad Murray’s trial. With so much talk of Propofol and prescription drug abuse, it struck me that the overall rise in the use (and often misuse) of prescription pain medication is a well-known but seldom discussed topic, particularly in the field of workers’ compensation.
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, more money is spent on Oxycodone than any other prescription drug used to treat work-related injuries. (Barry Lipton, et al., Workers’ Compensation Prescription Drug Study: 2010 Update, NCCI Workers’ Compensation 2011 Issues Report). Additionally, narcotics account for nearly one quarter – yes, 25% – of all workers’ compensation prescription drug costs. (Barry Lipton, et al., Narcotics in Workers’ Compensation, NCCI Research Brief, p.1, December 2009).
Despite the amount of money being spent on prescription pain medication, the medical community is divided on whether pain medication is even effective in treating chronic non-cancer pain. Some physicians believe the overuse of prescription medications for workers’ compensation patients results in both adverse medical and occupational outcomes. Some studies have even found those claimants taking opioid medications for the chronic treatment of pain are less likely to return to work than those patients treated by other modalities.
In light of the questionable efficacy of certain prescription pain treatment and the widespread abuse of prescription narcotics, several states including Washington and Texas have adopted laws to regulate the use of opioids and other narcotic drugs in the workers’ compensation arena.
Do you think South Carolina should follow this trend? According to the NCCI study on narcotics cited above, South Carolina ranks “Above Average” in narcotics costs per medical claim in workers’ compensation. (Narcotics, supra, at 12.)
I invite you to post your comments below.
Also, stay tuned, because I plan to address this topic more thoroughly in the next edition of our Collins & Lacy Workers’ Compensation Newsletter. If you are not a subscriber, click here to join the mailing list, and the newsletter will be delivered to your inbox.
– Anne Marie