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Workers' comp tightens pain-pill rules

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation said it has stepped up monitoring of the millions of doses of pain pills prescribed to injured workers every year as the agency tries to control costs and fight rampant prescription-drug abuse.

Starting in January 2014, the state-run insurance program for injured workers said it no longer covers prescriptions for controlled substances unless the provider enrolls in an automated reporting system designed to identify possible misuse of opiates.

During the past five years, the agency has paid for more than 188.5 million doses of narcotics prescribed to injured workers. Last year, it spent $38.2 million for 357,970 prescriptions for opiates to 39,028 claimants.

For years, the bureau did little to track prescription drugs. But starting in 2011, it took steps to monitor and reduce prescriptions of overused drugs. They included 120-day limits on opioids and muscle relaxants within 12 months, a previous authorization requirement for some drugs and a requirement that prescribers use the automated reporting system.

"Very much like other insurers or workers' comp carriers, we had not paid a lot of attention to our drug utilization prior to that time," agency pharmacy director John Hanna said. "That's why you see some of the dramatic changes. All we've done is introduce tools and introduce policies that should have been in place all along. So, we are playing catch-up in a lot of aspects."

The agency now tracks the opiate load of every injured worker for every month and is starting to also track anti-anxiety drugs, as high doses of those two classes of drugs can be deadly.

Opiate prescriptions for injured workers have dropped nearly 28 percent and muscle-relaxant prescriptions declined nearly 73 percent in 2013, compared with 2010, the agency said.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch. 

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The Bainbridge Firm, LLC

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Columbus, OH 43215

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