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10% of Calif. comp doctors dispense 80% of major narcotics: Study


A few doctors are responsible for prescribing nearly 80% of Schedule II opioids for workers compensation injuries, research released Monday by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute found.

Schedule II opioids include “major narcotics such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and methadone, which have limited FDA-approved medical uses and carry a high potential for addiction and abuse,” according to the Oakland-based CWCI.

The study found that 10% of doctors prescribing Schedule II opioids for injured California workers accounted for nearly 80% of all workers comp prescriptions for the drugs and 88% of the associated payments.

The CWCI looked at 233,276 prescriptions given to 16,890 California workers between January 2005 and December 2009. It found that almost half of all Schedule II opioid prescriptions were for minor back injuries.

Yet the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine says the use of these drugs is “typically not useful in the subacute and chronic phases,” the CWCI said.

Prior CWCI research found the use of the drugs in California workers comp cases had skyrocketed, with their costs accounting for 3.8% of workers comp prescription drug expenses in 2005 but rising to 23.6% in 2009.

The study is available at

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