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Highlights of the Survey of Drug Management in Work Comp – 2013 edition

Payers’ views of drug management in workers’ comp have evolved dramatically over the last decade; here are a few initial takeaways from the 10th Annual Survey of Prescription Drug Management in Worker’s Compensation.

  • For the third consecutive year, respondents’ drug costs declined in real terms, both for the average across all respondents (-3.9%) and the average of each respondent (-3.7%).
  • On a scale of 1 through 5 with 3 being “drug costs are equally as important as other medical cost issues,” drug costs were rated a 3.9, or “more important than other medical cost issues.”

  • Respondents are concerned (4.0) that drug costs will be more of a problem in the next 12-24 months than they are today.

  • Respondents deemed opioid prescribing, dispensing, monitoring, and management as the most important way to control workers’ compensation pharmacy costs. Respondents judged opioids to be an extremely significant problem, giving it an average of 4.8. This remains the highest score for any survey question in the history of the survey
  • All but one respondents had made significant upgrades and improvements to their clinical programs in 2012 

We’ve been surveying workers’ comp payers about their views on prescription drug management for ten years now, and the results from this year’s Survey show a remarkable increase in respondents’ expertise, depth of knowledge, and level of sophistication.  The responses to qualitative questions revealed most respondents are far more familiar with all aspects of the drug issue than they were a decade ago.

It is no surprise, then, that costs have declined over the last few years.  While there have undoubtedly been external factors that have contributed to that happy event, there’s also no question that the payers’ focus on this issue is paying off – in lower costs, better care, and reduced premiums.

That said, the looming opioid crisis will require a redoubling of that focus if payers are going to avoid the potentially devastating long-term financial consequences of opioid usage.

Past surveys are available here; a public version of the 2013 Survey will be available next week; I’ll let you know when it is.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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