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Calif. sees drop in lost-time comp claims with opioids: Study

Posted On: Nov. 13, 2019 12:53 PM CST


The prevalence of opioids in California workers compensation lost-time claims has dropped 51% over the past decade, reducing both average benefit payments and average days away from work on those claims, according to a study released Wednesday by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute.

The Oakland, California-based institute also found that 10-year costs on 2010 through 2017 claims systemwide are projected to decline by an estimated $6.5 billion, according to the report. 

The study’s authors analyzed 273,106 lost-time claims in which treatment was initiated within a 10-year period between 2008 and 2017, with payment and prescription data on the claims valued through 2018.

The authors found that over the 10-year span of the study, chronic opioid use — defined as three or more opioid prescriptions, each filled at least three weeks apart, and all filled within four consecutive months — declined from 13% to 3% of all lost-time claims. This represents a relative decline of 77%, according to the study, which also found opioid claims that fell outside of the chronic classification and were labeled as “acute” declined from about 36% to just over 21% of the claims — a relative decline of 40%.

The study also showed that the strength of the opioids dispensed within the first 12 months of treatment, measured in cumulative morphine milligram equivalents as a common yardstick for medication strength, declined 59% for chronic opioid use claims, and 36% for acute opioid use claims.