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Workers Comp Narcotics – When Does 1% Equal 40% ?


Shocking Statistics on Workers Comp Narcotics

The NCCI just released a study today on Narcotics in Workers Comp. The buzz on narcotics/opioids almost rivals fraud. I decided to read the study closely to see if there were any astounding facts.

Picture of Medicines narcotics assorted Capsules and Tablets
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The one statistic that stood out was that 40% of all narcotics in Workers Comp are consumed by 1% of the injured employees. I thought about this stat for a few minutes and came to the conclusion this was true Workers Comp sticker shock.

Along the same lines, but not as severe, 80% of all narcotics in Workers Comp is consumed by 10% of the injured employees. The report went on to say that the numbers have actually fallen a small amount over the last few years. That is amazing to me.

As expected, Oxycontin (r) and its generic equivalent were the most prevalent narcotic. Oxycontin and its generic was the most used narcotic in 2003. Its popularity waned. However it is now the ranked #1 again for narcotic use in Workers Comp.

I wrote about the abuse of Fentanyl in California’s WC system a few months ago. There is now even a stronger replacement for Fentanyl called Fentora. I recommend clicking the above link on Fentanyl. It is an eye-opener.

The concern is that Fentora is much stronger than Fentanyl as the dose has to be reduced when compared to Fentanyl before taking it. Fentanyl is actually 75 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Graphic Skull Made Up Capsule Narcotics Pills

Alaska’s generic only rule in 2008 was seen as a bold move and a way to cut Workers Comp prescription costs. Oxycontin and Fentanyl/Fentora have generic equivalents. This type of rule would not eliminate narcotics being used by injured employees. Would a Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) program be the way to handle this conundrum?

I had seen a posting or an article somewhere today that indicated the injured employees that are taking such powerful narcotics for pain management do not ever return to work. I will find that article this evening and post on it tomorrow.

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One Response

  1. I take Oxycontin twice daily for a back injury I suffered in 2006. I was off for a year while waiting for surgery and going through Physical Therapy. I then returned to work, so the statement that “that indicated the injured employees that are taking such powerful narcotics for pain management do not ever return to work.”, is incorrect.
    I do have to say that according to Workers Comp, they will no longer pay for Oxycontin and or Percocet for my pain relief and that went into effect in July of this year.


James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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