The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) examined the impact of opioid prescriptions on the duration of temporary disability benefits for workers with lower back injuries. The conclusion: long-term opioid prescriptions lead to temporary disability durations more than three times longer than claims without opioid prescriptions. Long-term is defined as having prescriptions within the first three months after an injury and three or more filled opioid prescriptions between the 7th and 12th months after an injury.
According to the study, The Impact of Opioid Prescriptions on Duration of Temporary Disability, a small number of opioid prescriptions, over a short period of time, did not lengthen temporary disability.
Although medical practice guidelines often advise against routine use of opioids for the treatment of nonsurgical low back injuries, opioid prescribing in these cases is still common in a number of states. Workers living in high-prescription areas were more likely to receive opioid prescriptions than workers who lived in low-prescription areas.
The study examined data for injuries between 2008 and 2013 where workers had more than seven days of lost work time in 28 states. The states, which represent over 80 percent of benefits paid, were Alabama, Arizona, 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.
States with the highest average opioid prescribing rates:
- Louisiana: 87 percent
- Alabama: 85 percent
- North Carolina: 82 percent
- Tennessee: 82 percent
States with the highest average longer-term opioid prescribing rate:
- Louisiana: 30 percent
- South Carolina: 18 percent
- Georgia: 17 percent
- North Carolina: 16 percent
Employer takeaway: Working with physicians following evidenced-based guidelines helps ensure the proper treatment for injured workers. Moreover, few employers have escaped the pain of the opioid crisis. Educating workers as to the dangers of prescription opioids, as well as identifying workers who have an addiction and providing the appropriate assistance, is key.
For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com