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Abuse of employer-paid opioid prescriptions widespread

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Nearly one-third of opioid prescriptions paid for by employers are abused, according to a new report by Castlight Health Inc.

The report aims to “provide employers with a more accurate picture of opiate painkiller abuse in the workplace, so they can better understand the extent and depth of the crisis,” the San Francisco-based health care information company said in a Wednesday statement.

About 32% of opioid prescriptions subsidized by American employers are being abused, according to the report, which defines abuse as receiving greater than a cumulative 90-day supply of opioids and receiving an opioid prescription from four or more providers between 2011 and 2015.

Caslight's findings aren't specific to employees receiving prescriptions under workers compensation, but the overutilization of opioids among injured workers is a top concern in the industry.

Individuals who abuse opioids cost employers about $19,450 in medical expenses on average annually, which is nearly twice as much as the $10,853 that non-abusers cost, the report states.

The opioid crisis significantly affects employers, “both in the form of direct and indirect costs,” Kristin Torres Mowat, senior vice president of health plan and strategic data operations at Castlight, said in the statement. “From higher spending on health care, to lost productivity, to the dangers associated with employees abusing medications in the workplace, these are aspects of the crisis that are too often overlooked in the current discussion.”

Castlight conducted the report using medical and prescription claim reports from the nearly one million workers who used its benefit platform between 2011 and 2015, according to the statement.