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Long-term opioid use tops workers comp payer worries: study

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Reporting a 6.4% increase in prescription drug spending last year, workers compensation payers say long-term opioid use is the biggest issue they face, a study concludes.

When asked to score their concern about opioids, respondents rated the “extremely significant problem” a 4.75 out of 5, up slightly from 4.6 in 2013, according to the 12th annual Prescription Drug Management in Workers Compensation survey that CompPharma L.L.C. released Tuesday.

“Notably, all respondents rated this a 4 or 5, a clear indicator of the level of the industry's anxiety over a problem that it was somewhat slow to fully grasp,” according to the analysis by the consortium of pharmacy benefit managers.

The 21 respondents, which include insurers, state funds, self-insured employers and third-party administrators, said they had drug expenses ranging from $1.3 million to $167 million in 2014, according to the report.

Respondents said their collective spending on prescription drugs increased 6.4% in 2014 compared with 2013.

“There was more variability in cost trend across all respondents than we have seen in any previous survey,” CompPharma said in the report. Only seven respondents reported increased drug spending and “there was a significant range in inflation and little consistency between” the seven payers, according to the report.

The report cites prescribing behavior, narcotics and compounds as the top cost drivers.

“Continuing a pattern we've seen for years, payers remain quite concerned about pharmacy,” said Joseph Paduda, president of Madison, Connecticut-based CompPharma. “This is likely due as much to drugs' impact on claim duration and total cost as it is to the price of drugs.”