CAMBRIDGE ― As states institute numerous 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 frequency of claims that received opioids on a longer-term basis decreased more than 4% in Kentucky and New York. The same measure decreased between 2% and 3% in several other states, including 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 between 1% and 2%.
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, fewer than 10% 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 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.