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A new study found that 47% of injured workers with chronic opioid use weaned off the painkillers completely within 24 months and that those who did not wean reduced their opioid dosage by an average of 52%, the Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California announced Thursday.
The Oakland, California-based ratings agency studied its databases of medical transaction records and unit statistical reports since July 2012 to examine the cost implications of chronic opioid use and the process of weaning injured workers off opioids statewide.
The study also found that claims involving chronic opioid use cost more than nine times in physician services than the average workers comp claim and that the median time from chronic opioid use to weaning completely was eight months. Meanwhile, the median time from accident date to when the worker was weaned off completely was 19 months.
The study also examined types of injuries treated, finding that “over 80% of transactions associated with chronic opioid claimants had primary diagnoses of soft tissue injuries. Injured workers who weaned off were more likely to have Nature of Injury codes for Fractures, and less likely to have Unspecified Injuries than those who did not wean off.”
An analysis on opioid prescribing and workers compensation shows that nearly 70% of federally mandated and approved California workers compensation Medicare set-aside settlements for injured workers require funding for decades of opioid use.