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Pain meds are driving drug costs

If you’re wondering why your company’s drug costs are going up, one likely contributor is the dramatic increase in the use of pain medications. Retail sales of five leading pain drugs jumped 90% from 1997 to 2005 led by oxycodone’s six-fold increase.

It could well be that the increased use of pain meds is a good thing, offering many chronic pain sufferers relief and allowing them to live their lives, work, and function more normally. Many of the comments on this blog are from chronic pain patients, a demographic that has become more knowledgeable and informed, and more assertive in their demand for relief.
Two other factors are contributing to the jump in pain med expenditures:
older folks use more pain meds more often than younger people – and as the population ‘ages’, that alone is likely to increase spend
— while pain med usage was almost doubling, the amount spent by pharma on direct to consumer marketing almost tripled to $30 billion, and it doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon.
What does this mean for you?
If you want to ensure you’re not spending more than you should, time to consider a clinical management approach to pain. One guideline company has done extensive work in this area – the Work Loss Data Institute.
(I’m not recommending WLDI, just providing a reference).

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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