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Work comp claims and the management of prescription painkillers

Back injuries are one of the most common causes of workers' compensation claims. And given America's well-developed pharmaceutical industry, this has created a tendency to rely too much on opioid drugs to provide pain relief.

In the Baltimore area and across the nation, many people have become addicted to prescription painkillers with narcotic qualities. The drugs are so potent that there is a serious risk of overdose involved with these drugs. These are drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin and Percocet, among others - all very powerful and potentially addictive.

Government agencies have struggled to find effective ways to address the problem. But now researchers associated with the insurance industry say there may be a data-informed way to use prescription painkillers more safely and effectively.

Researchers and medical-bill reviewers, working mostly for insurance companies - particularly those that pay work comp claims - have been developing analytical software programs. The programs seek to guide doctors' choice in prescribing the painkillers by flagging potential issues for certain patients.

The data for such programs is based on survey questions related to the injury that requires pain management. These can include questions about:

· Previous injuries

· Smoking

· Other signs of vulnerability to painkiller addiction

· Length of time someone is on opioid medication

The results of the survey questions are analyzed through an algorithm. The algorithm is supposed to provide indicators of addiction. The insurers say they are seeking a way to intervene to prevent prescription painkillers from becoming an addiction.

Doctors, however, are suspicious of what seems like an overly simplistic solution to the problem of pain management.

Source: "When Your M.D. Is an Algorithm," The Wall Street Journal," Timothy W. Martin, 4-11-13

Please visit our main workers' compensation page.

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