A report recently released by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) revealed that after pharmacy management initiatives were put into effect, the total number of narcotics prescribed in the state fell by 12 percent, which translates into 1.1 million doses. The pharmacy management regulations were enacted as a measure to reduce the incidence of narcotics addiction, but the regulations may make it more difficult for some injured workers to receive legitimate prescriptions.

Narcotics under fire

Narcotic medications are the strongest painkillers available, and many people rely on them just to get through the day. They are prescribed to a range of patients that include those with cancer, chronic diseases and neuromuscular disorders. They are also an effective short-term treatment for the pain associated with serious injuries.

According to the BWC report, the 12 percent decrease in prescribed narcotic painkillers has saved the state $2.1 million. The pharmacy management regulations also affect prescriptions for skeletal muscle relaxants (SMRs), which are commonly used in conjunction with narcotic pain medications. SMR prescriptions have dropped by 59 percent since the regulations went into effect.

Although the pharmacy management regulations were first implemented in September 2011, the study compares only the prescriptions filled from February 2012 to April 2012 to those filled during the same period in 2011.

The major provisions of the pharmacy management program in Ohio are as follows:

  • Initial prescriptions going through the BWC are screened to make sure the medication is relevant to the treatment of the reported injury.
  • After prescriptions are received by an injured worker, they go through an additional utilization review for appropriateness and possible dangers associated with other simultaneously prescribed medications.
  • In certain conditions, the BWC may require injured workers to use a single doctor to receive prescriptions and/or a single pharmacy to dispense prescriptions. This is meant to cut down on patients filling multiple prescriptions from different doctors.
  • Injured workers are required to use generic medications when they are available.