The issue of prescription drug abuse in the workers' compensation system is one of the most perverse and universal trends across state lines that I have seen in many years because of its scope and depth.
Texas joins the many states that have, or are, tackling the problem and trying to figure out methods to control the damage that pharmacological excess can have on injured workers, their families and society at large.
The Insurance Council of Texas' Annual Workers' Compensation Conference last Thursday was the first time I had heard of "pharm parties".
A pharm party is where kids raid the medicine cabinet of their parents, then all get together, throw the pills into a big bowl and then everyone grabs handfuls and "party on". Kids always seem to find new ways to get into trouble and to take adult materials in search of fun, but this is a highly dangerous practice because of the unknown and potentially lethal consequences of contraindications in medications.
Some of the practices being implemented by states to control prescription drugs include: introduction of closed formularies, requiring preauthorization for certain classes of drugs after certain time periods, market controls such as not paying for prescriptions that fall outside of medical guidelines without adequate documentation, etc.
Some of these controls may work, some may result in development of a larger underground market, some may not work at all.
Austin attorney Stuart Colburn of the Downs and Stanford law firm, in his presentation to the Insurance Council conference, commented that the prescription drug abuse problem is different from the problem of illicit drugs.
Abusers of prescription drugs have more access to scheduled narcotics than to illegal drugs, and to drugs of “higher quality” and purity, Colburn said.
But either form of abuse can lead to similar outcomes, Colburn said. “Lives are being lost,” he said. “All stakeholders should be collectively engaged in the search for solutions. Doing nothing creates addicts and destroys families,” he concluded.
Education is one step we as an industry can take for our part in answer to the prescription drug problem. So I'll put in a shameless plug because I think that the more people are aware of how the issue arises and how to deal with it the better off we will be as a society at large.
First is a free webinar today, September 12 at 1 p.m. PT - "Prescription Drug Abuse in Workers' Comp" hosted by Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters. Joe will present material on utilization of narcotics for treating work injuries; benchmark studies about opiods and workers' comp; how the states compare; the risks posed by long-term use of opiods; addiction problems and liability; and encouraging steps being taken to curb the abuse of prescription pain drugs. This webinar is "sold out" but there may be room for late attendees should some who signed up don't "attend". Call WorkCompCentral call customer service at 805-484-0333 x113 or x133 to see if there is any room.
The second free webinar is scheduled for Monday, October 3 at 1 p.m. PT - "Treating Opioid Dependency and Addiction in the Work Comp System" is a presentation by Dr. Thomas Jan, an addiction specialist. Dr. Jan will discuss the medical aspects of opioid dependency and addiction, how medical providers can tell the difference and discuss effective treatments, including the proper use of Suboxone,which can be administered through a physician's office. Attendance is limited to the first 99 registrants. You may sign up online for this course by following this link: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/212489334 or by calling WorkCompCentral customer service at 805-484-0333 x113 or x133.