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Opioid prescriptions for injured workers remain high

Despite the epidemic of sometimes-fatal abuse of opioids and other painkillers in this country, the number of opioid prescriptions given to injured workers in many states, including Pennsylvania, remains high. That's the finding of a study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

The WCRI looked at the amount of opioids prescribed to workers in 25 states between 2009 and 2014. The data was gathered from workers' comp claims. One of the study's authors said that the WCRI hoped that the findings would help insurance companies, state officials and doctors compare their state's level of prescription opioid use by injured workers to that of other states.

Six states did show significant decreases in opioid use during that period. However, in all the states that were study, the "frequency of opioid use was high." Even in states that came in on the low end of the scale, such as New Jersey and Illinois, opioids seemed to be the prescription painkiller most prescribed. More than half of people on workers' comp in those states who were prescribed painkillers were given opioids.

The rates were as high as 80 percent in some states. The study found the amount of opioids being prescribed to injured workers "striking" in several states, including Pennsylvania. In the two highest states, New York and Louisiana, "the average injured worker received over 3,400 milligrams of morphine equivalent opioids per claim." That was more than triple the amount in the states where opioid use was lowest. Pennsylvania wasn't far behind, with 3,000 milligrams.

When doctors aren't careful with their prescriptions of opioids and don't closely monitor patients for potential signs of addiction and abuse, tragic results can ensue. When a person is harmed or worse by prescription opioids, it's worth looking at whether one or more medical professionals acted irresponsibly. Pennsylvania attorneys can help injured workers who become victims of prescription opioid overdoses and their families determine that.

Source: CNBC, "Big drop in opioids being given out to workers in some states: study," Dan Mangan, June 10, 2016

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