5 Steps to Combat Narcotics Abuse
Narcotics are not only an ever emerging social issue, but they’re becoming a costly and concerning trend in risk management. Narcotics present, not only direct costs (i.e. the cost of the medications) but also the indirect costs associated with long term health effects.
In May 2012, NCCI released a research brief “Narcotics in Workers’ Compensation” reporting that prescription drug costs account for 19% of Workers’ Compensation medical costs. The FDA has outlined the following risks associated with long term narcotics usage: respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, addiction. All of these risks present a direct correlation with healthcare costs and an indirect correlation to WC costs by delaying increasing treatment and delaying recovery.
The term narcotics typically refer to opium, opium derivatives, and their semi-synthetic substitutes. Some of the more “well-known” prescriptions include OxyContin, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl.
There are conflicting schools of thought as to what types of conditions warrant the use of narcotics; however, there is little debate that for severe cancer pain treatment, these are acceptable pain relievers. The debate amongst medical professionals is whether these are appropriate to treat musculoskeletal issues. While the debate continues, the trends seem to indicate a higher level of acceptance for prescribing these medications for musculoskeletal conditions.
So what steps actions can you company take to combat this increasing cost, and manage this risk? Below are 5 key elements your company can institute to get ahead of this trend:
- Have a drug policy in place which addresses not only illicit drugs but also prescription medications
- Request narcotics contracts for extended use (outside of formulary guidelines), where allowed by state, and privacy laws
- Coordinate protocol with your Workers’ Compensation administrator to eliminate, manage or reduce narcotic use once these exceed formulary guidelines. This should encompass:
a. Administrator identification and notice once formulary guidelines have been reached or exceeded
b. A pre-established review process with the appropriate medical staff
- Coordinate protocol with your Liability and Workers’ Compensation administrators to establish a review process to screen for narcotics prior to submission of an MSA (Medicare Set-Aside)
a. Protocol should include a cooperative effort amongst the treating physician and claimant on a plan that would achieve anticipated outcomes
b. Written confirmation (or contract) as to what agreement was reached
- Increasing awareness amongst employee population through wellness training, newsletters, and other modes of communication used by your company to reach the employee population
These inexpensive solutions will have a positive impact on your employees' health, while reducing costs your loss costs.
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