The opioid epidemic tearing through our nation is damaging families and communities and costing governments billions of dollars. Many approaches are being sought to curb the epidemic and recoup expenses spent on treating it. Last month, for instance, eleven cities and towns filed a lawsuit in Cook County, Illinois against both pharmaceutical companies and three specific doctors alleged to have helped cause and spread the epidemic.
One recent study, however, has turned its attention to the way workers’ compensation is impacted by the prescription of opioids, and the data is not kind to the drugs.
A HIGH COST
MarketWatch reports that the Workers Compensation Research Institute in Cambridge, MA, the Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, NH, and the Department of Economics at the University of California, Irvine, came together on research into the impact opioid prescriptions have on workers’ compensation claims. The study focused on lower-back injuries suffered on the job that qualified workers for workers’ compensation and kept them off work for more than seven days. The researchers controlled for other factors, such as differing industry demands and the ages of the workers.
What they found was that workers prescribed long-term uses of opioid drugs cost their employers significantly more. In fact, opioid use in these circumstances were linked to the costs of temporary disability payments tripling compared with workers who were not given opioids. It is suggested that the reason for this massive increase is that employees prescribed opioids were found to take longer to return to work than those given other avenues of recovery.
CONCERNS AND REACTIONS
The researchers were very keen to remind readers that the study did not rule out the medical use of opioids, even in cases of workers’ compensation. This class of pain medications has its uses, and doctors and states should be wise about how they are handled. The issue being raised is that overuse of opioids for situations where they are not necessary, especially those in which workers seem to have greater benefit from not receiving opioids, are causing a great deal more trouble than they are worth.
It is damaging to companies when the disability of workers is extended beyond any necessary levels. It is damaging to workers to be out of work longer than necessary, and the dangers opioids present to individuals, families, and communities show that the damage does not stop there. There is no benefit to using opioids where they are not necessary.
We urge doctors to take precautions with opioid prescriptions, and will continue to fight for the rights of workers injured on the job, whether opioids are involved or not. If you have any concerns or questions about how your workers’ compensation case is being handled, contact us immediately so we can walk through the process with you and get you back to work quickly.