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Paduda: Where Have All the WC Opioids Patients Gone?

By Joe Paduda

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 | 0

Workers’ comp has done an admirable job reducing the volume and potency of opioids dispensed to work comp patients.

Joe Paduda

Joe Paduda

The question is, how many work comp patients really stop taking opioids?

Canadian study offers a sobering possibility: Many likely did not:

... those injured workers that received … 120 MED or more at the end of their claim were likely to have post-claim opioid use in approximately 80% of cases.

Caveats abound: different country, different system, different approach to opioid management. Yet we need to ask ourselves questions that are deep and uncomfortable.

Did we really help these patients?

Were they addicted, dependent, and/or have serious chronic pain that we failed to adequately address?

Have we looked deep enough into what happened to those patients taking opioids after they stopped?

Perhaps most important: What is our responsibility to those patients?

This is not — an any way — justification for the opioid industry’s twisted and misguided attack on efforts to reduce opioid overprescribing. It is crystal clear that industry has killed hundreds of thousands of people, devastating communities and families.

Rather, we need to make very sure we are doing the right thing for patients. In some instances this will involve telling patients what they don’t want to hear. We need to be prepared to do that and help them through the process while understanding that the process is very difficult.

What does this mean for you?

Do you know whether patients no longer getting opioids via work comp are still taking them? What responsibility do you bear?

Joseph Paduda is co-owner of CompPharma, a consulting firm focused on improving pharmacy programs in workers’ compensation. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.


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