Shift to opioid alternatives raises concerns


The use of opioids for pain management in workers compensation continues to decline, replaced by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and dermatological agents. And while the industry lauds the decline in opioid prescribing, the uptick in usage of the more-expensive alternatives is causing concern. 

According to recently released preliminary data from the Workers Compensation Research Institute, the payment share of opioids in 28 study states fell to 8% in the first quarter of 2020 from 21% in the first quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, the share of payments for dermatological drugs increased to 21% from 11% during the same time period, and the payment share of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs rose to 19% from 17%.