Doctor dispensing linked to unnecessary opioid Rxs

January 2, 2015

In an effort to curb prescription drug overdoses and short circuit pill-mills, Florida banned physician dispensing of strong opioids back in 2011.

In an effort to curb prescription drug overdoses and short circuit pill-mills, Florida banned physician dispensing of strong opioids back in 2011.

So what was the result? According to a study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), there was an increase in the percentage of injured workers receiving weaker painkillers dispensed by doctors, indicating that the previous physician dispensing that was banned had encouraged some doctors to unnecessarily prescribe strong opioids.

Doctors writing fewer painkiller Rxs

“When we compare pre- and post-reform prescribing practices, it appears that physician-dispensers not only reduced their dispensing of strong opioids, but also reduced prescribing of strong opioids,” said Richard Victor, WCRI’s executive director. “This raises concerns that a significant proportion of pre-reform physician-dispensed strong opioids were not necessary, which means injured workers in Florida were put at greater risk for addiction, disability or work loss, and even death.”

The study examined medications dispensed to injured workers covered by Florida’s workers’ compensation program. It compared 59,564 prescriptions dispensed to injured workers prior to the ban on doctors dispensing strong opioids to 52,747 prescriptions dispensed after the 2011 ban.

Study authors expected to find an increase in pharmacy-dispensed strong opioids, as doctor-dispensed opioids shifted to pharmacy-dispensed opioids. The increase in pharmacy-dispensed strong opioids was statistically insignificant. However, the study found that the percentage of patients receiving weaker painkillers such as ibuprofen increased from 24.1% to 25.8%. And patients receiving weaker opioids increased from 9.1% to 10.1%.

“Since Florida has banned physician dispensing of strong opioids, the lessons of this study are relevant for the other states concerned about eliminating unnecessary costs in their system while protecting injured workers from unnecessary medical care,” Victor said.