BY SHERRI HICKEY
OPIOID MISUSE and abuse is a huge problem in the Workers’ Compen- sation field, contributing to an increase in deaths and medical costs.
Meant to be prescribed after major
surgeries or major trauma, these drugs
are intended for short-term use or end-of-life cancer pain. “Short-term” is meant to
signify a span of a few days or weeks—not
years, as the current trend indicates.
The Institute of Medicine has reported
that chronic pain affects more than 116
million American adults—more than the
total affected by heart disease, cancer and
diabetes combined—and costs up to $635
billion a year in medical treatment and
It is extremely common to see injured
workers abusing opioids or pain relievers,
and these drugs also cause a variety of side
effects that end up becoming part of the
Workers’ Comp claim.
Treatment for these side effects
results in more drugs being prescribed.
According to our claims data, some
injured workers are taking 20 to 30—
perhaps 40 or more—pills a day. This
can include different pain medications,
laxatives and sleeping aids.
One of the major issues with opioids is
the lack of regulation and oversight from
So what do we do to address opioids
in Workers’ Comp? Partnering with a
good pharmacy-benefit manager (PBM)
is a start. Your PBM should focus on
appropriate utilization of pharmacy, not
just the price paid per prescription fill. It
is critical that utilization—not the cost per
fill—becomes the cost-driver.
Claim handlers also must consider
the psycho-social factors that could lead
to prescription misuse. Does the injured
worker have a history of addictive behavior,
such as smoking or alcohol abuse? Such
individuals are at greater risk for developing
an addiction to opioids.
According to the CDC, about 40 people
die each day in the United States from
prescription-drug overdoses. Most of these
deaths are associated with opioids. The
time for action on this issue is now. NU
Sherri Hickey is
Safety National in
St. Louis, Mo.
Man’s Best Friend—or Missile?
Image by Thinkstock
BY CHRISTINE BARLOW
IT HAS LONG BEEN said that “dog is man’s best friend,” and many people feel that way about their family pets.
They are so attached to their pets, in fact,
that they frequently take them along
with them in the car—and it’s not just a
ride to the vet. They’re taking dogs to dog
parks, day care and even play dates with
This is all well and good, until one
thinks about the distraction that having a
dog in the car brings.
A survey of drivers who travel with their
dogs showed that drivers admit to petting
their dogs; using hands or arms to hold
dogs in place while braking; using hands
to keep dogs from climbing into the front
seat; allowing dogs to sit on their lap; and
feeding dogs treats while driving.
In addition to the driving distraction
that Fido presents when he is a passenger in
the car, there is also another safety hazard.
In an accident, Fido becomes a flying
missile, injuring himself and others as he
bounces around the car. In an abrupt stop,
Fido will keep moving at the speed the car
was traveling. Take a 40-pound dog moving
at 60 miles an hour, and the physics of the
situation get ugly. The driver, passengers
and dog may all be injured.
January 23, 2012 | National Underwriter Property & Casualty | 25