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California workers comp opioid use drops to lowest level since 2007


The use of Schedule II opioid painkillers to treat injured California workers has dropped to its lowest level since 2007, according to a study that the California Workers’ Compensation Institute released Tuesday.

Opioid use fell from a peak of 5.8% of workers comp prescriptions during the second quarter of 2010 to 3.4% during the fourth quarter of last year, the CWCI said.

The Oakland, Calif.-based organization based its findings on a review of pharmaceutical data from a sample of 9.2 million prescriptions dispensed to California claimants from 2002 through 2011.

Schedule II opioid analgesics include oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl.

The CWCI’s study confirms results of earlier research that use of Schedule II opioids surged from 2002 to 2008. During its peak in the third quarter of 2009 and second quarter of 2010, use of the pharmaceuticals accounted for 19.7% of workers comp prescription payments, the CWCI said.

“The recent decline in Schedule II opioids was not associated with any specific statutory or regulatory changes,” the CWCI said in a statement. That suggests “the reduction may reflect increased efforts by workers comp payers to modify medical cost containment oversight and tighten controls over the use of Schedule II opioids, as well as increased public awareness of the risks associated with these drugs.”