November 30, 2012

Massachusetts Monitors Injured Workers and Prescribed Opioid Use
-- A study performed by a research group based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that many physicians do not properly monitor injured workers after prescribing painkillers. --

    November 30, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Addiction has a crippling effect on one's life. A study performed by a research group based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that many physicians do not properly monitor injured workers after prescribing painkillers. By ignoring treatment guidelines, many injured workers become addicted to drugs such as Oxycontin or Vicodin after long-term use.

Another study done by the Workers Compensation Research Institute has shown that one in 12 injured workers that are prescribed painkillers were still using these opioids three to six months after their injury and many of them did not receive recommended psychological evaluations during treatment.

Fatalities linked to painkillers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that strong painkillers account for a threefold increase in overdose deaths since 1999. Reports show that opioid overdoses kill more people each year than cocaine and heroin combined. Though these are high numbers, the state of Massachusetts reported a decrease from 11 percent to 7 percent between 2007 and 2011 among injured workers who were long-time users of painkillers. This decease may be partly due to a mandatory physician education program implemented during that time.

Local efforts to battle the problem

As part of its mandatory physician education program, in 2010, Massachusetts passed a law that required physicians to attend training on how to identify "patients at high risk of abuse" of narcotics and how to effectively monitor and treat them. This training is required for renewal of their physician's license.

Massachusetts has also created a Prescription Monitoring Program, a website to keep patients from hopping from doctor to doctor in order to receive painkillers. Physicians will be required by law to sign up for the site, and they will be able to see if their patients have received painkillers from other prescribers within the last year.

Potential impact on injured workers

Painkillers may be necessary to treat injuries, but because they are so readily available, many patients end up with extra pills when they are no longer necessary. This increases the potential to abuse them. Abusing prescription drugs has resulted in many workers continuously missing work, overdosing or dying from an overdose. In Massachusetts and across the nation, physicians have a duty to not only prescribe drugs to keep patients from suffering, but to also monitor the situation to make sure that the use does not turn into abuse.

Workers' compensation and treatment for injuries

An employee who is hurt on the job and receiving workers' compensation must be able to rely on the doctor to help them work towards recovery, and irresponsible treatment can lead to further problems for the worker and their families. An injured worker should consult a workers' compensation attorney who can handle not only the claims process but also help the employee by helping to monitor the treatment process.

Article provided by Pulgini & Norton LLP
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