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Overprescribing Pain Medications in Atlanta Injured Workers Cases

• Oct 23rd, 2013

The largest workers’ compensation benefits and reimbursements that are paid out every year go to employees who are catastrophically injured, losing limbs and functions in the process. These injured workers are treated by using strong pain medicines, and some of these workers don’t return to work for a long while, if ever.

Workplace insurers are spending an estimated $1.4 billion every year on narcotic painkillers. Also known as opioids, these medications are highly addictive. Insurance companies are beginning to realize something quite starting: if used too early in treatment, too frequently, or for too long, it can delay an employee’s return to work and, in turn, increase disability payouts and medical expenses for the employee.

In 2008, the California Workers Compensation Institute did a study which found that workers receiving high doses of opioid painkillers to treat their job-related injuries stayed off the job three times longer whend compared to employees with similar injuries, but taking lower doses of the same medications.

A study was conducted in 2010 by Accident Fund Holdings, an insurer operating in eighteen states, including Georgia. The analysis by them found that in cases where medical care and payments are combined, the workplace injury cost is nine times higher when a narcotic like OxyContin is used compared to when no narcotic is used at all.

The use of drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, and Duragesic to treat occupational injuries are part of a broad problem that involves their excessive use and addictive natures. These narcotics are prescribed to treat immediate pain but there is little evidence of their long-term benefit. The main and most problematic issue arises from their high addiction level and the serious side effects of withdrawal. Basically, there is an obvious association between the greater use of opioids and delayed recovery from workplace injuries. Some states, such as New York, Colorado, Texas and Washington, have issued new pain treatment guidelines in an attempt to find means for reversing the trend.

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