By: Louise Esola, Business Insurance, March 2018

Longer-term prescribing of opioids more than triples the duration of temporary disability among workers with work-related, nonsurgical, lower-back injuries when compared to claims with no opioid prescribing, according to a study released Thursday by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute.

sing data from 28 states, for injuries between 2008 and 2013 where workers had more than seven days of lost work time, the study estimated the effects of opioid prescriptions measured in several ways, including whether workers received multiple prescriptions for opioids and whether workers had opioid prescriptions within the first three months after an injury and three or more filled opioid prescriptions between the 7th and 12th months after an injury. Researchers culled information on opioid prescriptions from prescription transaction data collected from workers compensation insurers and their medical bill review and pharmacy benefit management vendors, according to the study.

The study also found that local prescribing patterns played a strong role in determining whether injured workers receive opioid prescriptions. Workers who lived in high-prescription states, per pharmacy data, were more likely to receive opioid prescriptions than workers who lived in low-prescription areas.

“Our results imply that a 10-percentage-point increase in the local rate of longer-term opioid prescribing is associated with a 2.6-percentage-point higher likelihood that an otherwise similar injured worker would receive longer-term opioid prescriptions,” the study states.Business Insurance