Study finds painkiller prescriptions for injured workers fell after passage of tracking database law

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After Kentucky fully implemented its prescription-monitoring database in 2012, fewer workers injured on the job received prescription painkillers, and when they did they got fewer of them, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, examined workers’ compensation claims for more than 21,000 Kentucky workers with new injuries in 2011-13, and nearly 91,000 prescriptions associated with those claims, says the news release.

The study looked at the effects of 2012 House Bill 1, which became law in July of that year. It required use of Kentucky’s All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system, or KASPER.

The study found that the share of Kentucky workers who received an opioid prescription for their injury decreased from 54 percent before the law to 44 percent after its took effect — a drop of almost 19 percent. This measure didn’t change much in neighboring states without a similar law, says the release.

Boris Ladwig of Insider Louisville reports that “the workers who did receive opioids took 15 percent less, and the share of workers who are taking opioids for chronic conditions fell by 22 percent,” from 7.3 percent before the law to 5.7 percent after.

Vennela Thumula, the nonprofit’s policy analyst, told Ladwig she was surprised by the findings: “With fewer injured workers receiving opioids post-reform, we expected those receiving opioids to have relatively more severe injuries, on average. Therefore, we expected to see a higher average amount of opioids per claim in the post-reform period.”

Most of the reductions were seen in workers between 25 and 39, those who had not had surgery, and those who had sustained a back sprain or strain, as opposed to those with fractures.

The release notes that even after the law passed, there continued to be a higher rate of opioid prescriptions dispensed to workers in Eastern Kentucky, 62 percent compared to 43 percent among those living in other regions.

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reports that as of December 2016, 20 states had adopted similar legislation.

From Kentucky Health News

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