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The prescribing of drugs meant to treat opioid use disorder increased 5.4% in 2018 among workers compensation claims and 1.8% of claims with high doses of opioids received naloxone — an anti-overdose medication — at almost double the amount from 2017, according to a drug trends report issued this month by Coventry Workers Comp.
The Downers Grove, Illinois-based pharmacy benefits manager also found a 21.9 percentage point drop between 2013 and 2018 in the number of injured workers prescribed opioids, with 29.4% of injured workers using opioids in 2018 — a decline in line with other studies on opioid prescribing in comp.
Overall, there was a 16.5% decrease in the number of prescriptions per claim and an 18.1% drop in the cost per claim as a result, according to the data.
The study also zeroed in on the amount of injured workers taking high “morphine equivalent doses,” or stronger doses of opioids, finding that 20 states over the past three years have seen “significant” decreases in the stronger doses, with California, Texas, and Oklahoma slashing the number of higher dosage scripts by between 40% and 50%. Overall, there has been a 23.2% decrease in scripts with high morphine equivalent doses.
While the overall use of opioids among injured workers is trending downward due to the combined efforts of doctors, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and regulators, older claims remain troublesome, experts say.