Costly Prescription Drugs Are Jacking Up WC Bills
A greater use of pricier painkillers and other prescription drugs to treat employees hurt on the job is sending workers compensation costs soaring, an insurer study has found.
Ken Martino, senior vice president of Specialty Risk Services, a subsidiary of The Hartford Financial Services Group, says that “the use of drugs and a shift to more costly drugs,” was behind a 67% cost increase his company has tracked over the past two years.
The Hartford says it has contracted with a pharmacy benefits management program, Tmesys, a service of the PMSI division of PharMerica, as one of a number of steps to put a damper on prescription drug costs. “We think we are well on the way” to reducing expenses, says Martino.
In examining its drug costs, the company did a ranking of 25 medications. The most money the company spent on prescriptions was for the time-released pain reliever Oxycontin, followed by two anti-inflammatory drugs, Celebrex and Vioxx, according to Martino.
He notes that, in the past, two other painkillers–Relafen and Daypro–were among the top 10 on the list. They cost about $1.50 per dose, he says. Now, he points out that Relafen ranks 22nd on the list, while Daypro has dropped off entirely. Celebrex and the other drugs that have taken their place cost from $2.50 to $3.00 a dose, he explains.
The volume of Vioxx prescriptions, according to The Hartford, jumped 908% last year compared with 1999.
Zanaflex, an Elan Pharmaceuticals drug for muscle spasms, was found to have gone from 25th to 14th on the list–with volume increasing 567%.
Duragesic, a patch that delivers medication to relieve localized chronic pain, jumped from 17th to eighth in the rankings following a 169.2% cost increase over the past two years.
Martino says that The Hartford–by written premium the eighth-largest workers comp writer in the country–typically finds pain medications being prescribed for workers comp patients to relieve back, knee and shoulder problems.
The Hartford and Specialty Risk Services, which is a third-party administrator, says that high prescription costs should be addressed on four fronts:
Analyze data to understand trends and improve outcomes.
Inform injured workers and healthcare service providers.