Nationwide, there has been an alarming increase in the number of opioid pain medications prescribed to workers who are injured on the job.
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, has completed the pilot test of an innovative program to prevent the abuse of prescription opioid drugs. The program has dramatically reduced the amount of medically unnecessary opioids prescribed and the time it takes to wean injured workers from them, once prescribed. It has also resulted in millions of dollars of cost savings over the past 18 months. Because the program has proved so successful, EMPLOYERS is now rolling it out on a broader scale.
“The Centers for Disease Control has reported that more people are dying from prescription painkillers than from heroin or cocaine,” said Stephen V. Festa, executive vice president and chief operating officer at EMPLOYERS. “Opioid addiction decreases worker productivity, makes workplaces less safe, prolongs disability claims, and increases the risk of death from overdoses.”
EMPLOYERS’ opioid program takes proactive measures to help control the flow of narcotics within the workers’ compensation claim. Its approach involves the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, injured employees, workers’ compensation physicians and pharmacy benefit managers.
“We realized that the best way to address this growing problem is to involve everyone connected to it,” Festa said.
The first prong of the program focuses on training physicians to recognize the signs of opioid abuse and encourages them to consider other effective pain management alternatives.
“In a lot of cases, less addictive alternatives could be more appropriate and just as effective,” Festa said.
Working in collaboration with pharmacy benefit managers, among others, EMPLOYERS has created an information exchange network for workers’ compensation physicians. Through this network, doctors can engage in peer-to-peer discussions with other doctors to share ideas about safer, medically appropriate pain management plans in addition to strategies to wean injured employees off of opioid painkillers. EMPLOYERS has experienced success in working collaboratively with participants to promote injured employee safety as well as medically appropriate care.