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Fla. law that limits doctor dispensing cuts comp opioid usage: WCRI

Fla. law that limits doctor dispensing cuts comp opioid usage: WCRI

A law that restricts Florida physicians from dispensing opioid prescriptions from their offices reduced narcotic use in workers compensation cases, but increased prescribing of other painkillers, according to the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

Florida H.B. 7095, enacted in July 2011, banned doctors from dispensing the “strongest” opioids, such as hydrocodone-acetominophen, except in limited circumstances.

In a report released Thursday, Cambridge, Mass.-based WCRI said 12.4% of workers comp claimants received prescriptions for opioids after H.B. 7095 passed. That's compared with 14.5% of injured workers who received such medications from their doctors prior to the bill's passage. There was no change in the percentage of patients who received opioids from pharmacies, WCRI said.

Meanwhile, the percentage of injured Florida workers who received prescriptions for non-narcotic pain medications, such as ibuprofen, increased to 26% after H.B 7095's enactment, compared with 23.8% prior to the law's passage.

“This study provides tentative evidence that is consistent with patients of physician-dispensers receiving more opioids than necessary,” WCRI Executive Director Richard Victor said in a statement. “If this evidence is correct, it could shift the policy debate from whether or not there are substantial benefits to some patients from physician dispensing, to whether or not there are substantial harms to some patients from physician dispensing.”