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Workers' Compensation Opioid Use Drops $6.5 Billion In California
By Lonce Lamonte - November 12, 2019

Opioid use within California workers’ compensation lost-time cases has been cut in half over the past ten years. This drop has reduced both average benefit payments and average days away from work, according to the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) in a study released yesterday. 

The CWCI study shows 10-year costs are projected to decline by an estimated $6.5 billion.

The authors found that over the 10-year span of the study, chronic opioid use declined from 13% to 3% of all lost-time claims, while acute use declined from about 36% to just over 21% of the claims.  The study also indicated that the strength of the opioids dispensed within the first 12 months of treatment declined 59% for chronic opioid use claims, and 36% for acute opioid use claims.

The workers’ compensation industry has responded to the opioid crisis with policy and medical management interventions, with increased application of evidence-based medicine treatment and pain management guidelines.  Also included are drug formularies, prescription drug monitoring programs and targeted law enforcement against opioid manufacturers and “pill mills.”

These interventions have been instrumental in fueling the decline in opioid use in California as well as workers’ comp programs in other jurisdictions, according to CWCI. conclusion of the study states future declines will depend on advances in evidence-based medicine research and treatment guidelines, medical providers’ continued adoption of alternative pain management protocols, continued elimination of fraudulent and abusive provider practice patterns, increased general awareness of the dangers of opioid use, and the growing number of class action lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.

On the CWCI’s website:  Report to the Industry report “The Impact of Declining Opioid Use on Lost-Time Claim Development & Outcomes in California Workers’ Compensation”., Lonce Lamonte, editor and journalist, adjustercom


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