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Opioid dependency decreases for injured workers in Ohio

For the sixth straight year, the number of injured Ohio workers dependent on opioids has decreased. There were 3,315 injured workers who are clinically dependent on opioids as of June 30, a 19 percent drop from last year and a 59 percent decrease since 2011.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC), along with addiction experts define clinical dependency as taking at least 60 milligrams of morphine for at least 60 days. In 2011, the BWC found that there were more than 8,000 injured workers who met the definition of clinical dependency. That same year, drug costs rose to $133 million. Construction workers in Ohio were particularly affected by the opioid epidemic, with 77 percent higher injury rates from workplace accidents than other occupations and twice as many deaths from overdoses in 2015 as the next-highest state (Illinois).

These statistics prompted several initiatives to reduce the number of clinically dependent workers and to reduce the bureau's expenses. The BWC created a pharmacy and therapeutics committee, a physician and pharmacist panel to create and review medication policy, a BWC-approved list of drugs that are covered and a rule that holds prescribers accountable for not following best practices. It appears that these measures have been effective. BWC overall drug costs fell to $86 million in 2017, including $24 million less spent on opioids.

The reduction will go into effect July 1 and it is estimated that it will save employers $163.5 million in the next year. The BWC attributes the decrease in clinically dependent injured workers to fewer workers' compensation claims associated with workplace injuries. The agency plans to continue working towards its goals of preventing workplace accidents, lowering rates and caring for injured workers.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, Number of injured workers using opioids falls again, Mark Williams, Feb. 23, 2018

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