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Prescription Drug Awareness: Stay Informed, Take Control

Opioid sidebar final 5-30-14Getting hurt shouldn’t lead to physical dependence on medication or death. We’re working to prevent that.

In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).  Furthermore, ODH indicates 4 to 5 Ohioans die daily due to drug overdose, which includes both illegal and prescription drugs.

Ohio is not alone as this is a national epidemic.  Dr. Danesh Mazloomdoost, a Johns Hopkins University graduate and medical director of Pain Management Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, notes in a recent article that over the last decade “opiate overdoses have killed more than 125,000 Americans.”  That’s twice the number of Americans killed during the Vietnam War.  Even more startling is his reference to the fact that “for every opiate overdose, there are 825 recreational opiates users at risk for addiction or overdose.”

Through our investigations, we’ve found that people addicted to prescription medicine may commit crimes. A few weeks ago, we released an investigation summary about a man who was sentenced for receiving opioids from multiple doctors.

Deception to obtain, often called doctor shopping, is a crime where a person attempts to conceal their addiction by seeing multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for the same or similar drugs.

Addicts may fake injuries and go to an emergency room just to get a few days’ worth of narcotic drugs. To further conceal their doctor shopping, people sometimes use multiple pharmacies in an attempt to avoid any questions about the volume or frequency of filling their prescriptions. These illegal actions result when either the person is abusing the drugs by taking more than prescribed or diverting/trafficking the drugs for money.

BWC initiatives

In response to these trends, BWC made several changes to its pharmacy program over the past several years, including implementation of a medication formulary, standardized drug utilization reviews and a lock-in program to limit doctor and pharmacy shopping.  These efforts have resulted in opiate doses dropping 10.9 million since 2010 and drug cost savings of more than $20 million since 2011.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) has also amped up its efforts to detect fraudulent activity of drug seekers and of medical providers overprescribing prescription painkillers.

Opioids

Opioids are “remarkable drugs” and “the best way to relieve excruciating pain in the short run after injury or surgery,” according to Webility Corp., which partnered with BWC to develop and test new ways to communicate and provide assistance to injured workers, all with the goal of quicker recovery and return-to-work outcomes.

When taken regularly for months or years, however, they can cause more harm than good.

“With prolonged everyday use, they have actually worsened pain and disability for many people who should have been able to resume a relatively normal life,” according to a Webility Corp. brochure.

Fortunately, most doctors hold the care of their patients as their highest priority. However, there are those who are concerned only with enriching themselves by feeding the drug habits of their patients. Examples of this are all too prevalent and all too recent. Consider this mother’s reaction to her son’s death here and what happened to the responsible doctor, Terry Dragash here.  Like doctor shopping, conspiracy to distribute drugs is another crime SID takes very seriously.

Even as SID seeks out those who improperly use or distribute prescription medications, we understand opioids are often a legitimate part of an injured worker’s treatment and recovery plan.  That’s why BWC strongly encourages injured workers to talk through the pros and cons of starting an opioid treatment program, and ask as many questions of their physicians as possible. When it comes to opioids, asking questions is crucial, and an open and frank conversation with your physician will help you determine the best course of action.

SID’s fraud investigators and analysts see the effects of long-term prescription opioid use, and others do, too. The Ohio Department of Health has launched Prescription for Prevention, a campaign to combat the epidemic of prescription drug overdose and abuse. Learn more about that campaign here.

 

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