Few Physicians are Abiding by Guidelines for Painkillers

Many physicians who prescribe powerful painkillers, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, for injured workers fail to follow the recommended treatment guidelines for monitoring their patients, which results in long-term drug use that may lead to addiction.

The Workers Compensation Research Instituteconcluded that approximately one in twelve injured workers who are prescribed narcotics are still using them three to six months later. The study found that workers prescribed these medications seldom receive recommended drug test monitoring and psychological evaluation, which can help to prevent future addiction.

The study comes amid a rising sea of painkiller addiction in the United States; there has been a 300% rise in the sale of these strong painkillers since 1999. The Workers Compensation Research Institute analyzed nearly 300,000 workers’ compensation claims between 2006 and 2009 from twenty-one states, including Massachusetts, and followed the prescriptions associated with them.

The Institute found reassuring news for Massachusetts, the percentage of injured Massachusetts workerswho had long-term use of narcotics decreased from eleven percent to seven percent during the time period studied.

The study attributed the decrease in Massachusetts to including a mandatory physician education program. A law enacted in 2010 requires prescribers to receive training in effective pain management and identification of patients at high risk of abuse, in order to have their license renewed.

Massachusetts also launched a Prescription Monitoring Program, which is a database to stop patients from “doctor-shopping” for highly addictive pain medications. The law requires that doctors sign up and check the database, to see whether a patient has received other narcotic prescriptions in the past year.

Pulgini & Norton, LLP attorneys have handled workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years in and around Boston and its surrounding areas. If you or a family member has been injured at work and would like to seek legal assistance, please contact us at (781) 843-2200 or (888) 344-2046 or email us.

Cited Sources:

Few physicians are following prescribing guidelines for painkillers, study finds, boston.com, October2, 2012

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