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Prescription painkillers and work injuries: an update

One of the threads we've continued to follow in this blog is the use -- and sometimes overuse -- of prescription painkillers after someone suffers a workplace injury.

In our May 24 post, for example, we wrote about how the risk of overdose death from over-prescribed painkillers is very real. 

In today's post, we will update you on efforts by government regulators to prevent the overuse of narcotic painkillers and other potentially harmful prescription drugs. Such painkillers are often prescribed to injured workers who are pursuing workers' compensation claims after getting hurt on the job or developing conditions in which they suffer chronic pain.

Doctors are often overly reliant on prescribing medications as quick-fix solutions to complicated problems. We are, for better and often for worse, a highly medicated society.

At the federal level, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that there be limits on the number of prescriptions that a patient can receive during a given amount of time. The FDA guideline is that to get more than three, month-long prescriptions, a patient must go back to see a doctor to have the underlying condition checked out.

To be sure, there is concern that such a guideline could restrict access to necessary pain medication in some cases. But if a patient is homebound, for example, that type of case could be considered an exception to the general rule the FDA has proposed.

Maryland and other states have choices to make, then, about whether to adopt restrictions on prescriptions such as the FDA suggests. 

States that seek to enforce such restrictions also have practical challenges in putting proper databases in place for monitoring the prescription fulfillment process.

Source: USA Today, "FDA cracks down, finally, on painkillers: Our view," The Editorial Board, Nov. 12, 2013

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