Injured on the job workers rely on workers compensation to cover expenses for daily living and medical bills. Workers compensation insurers are now expressing concern about the continuously rising costs of prescription painkillers used for treating injured workers.


Roughly $1.4 billion is spent annually on narcotic painkillers each year for workers hurt on the job. The concerns of workers comp insurers could mean healthcare changes are forthcoming. Previously workers comp insurers used to believe that pill treatment would be much cheaper than other types of medical intervention, considering painkillers to be ‘magic pills’.


Painkillers do have benefits for injured workers but it is estimated that the total cost of an on the job injury is nine times higher when opioids are used than when there are no painkillers in an injured workers treatment plan.


Delayed recovery from workplace injuries is often seen in those who are prescribed narcotics. There is also the potential for addictions to these powerful drugs to become a problem. From 2001 to 2008, prescriptions for narcotics in proportion to all drugs used in medical treatment increased by an astounding 63% in 18 states. Massachusetts was recognized as the state with the strongest reliance on painkillers for workers comp injuries followed by Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania.


There are several workers comp insurers who are denying payment for painkiller treatments. For those who truly would benefit from painkiller prescriptions, it could mean facing a tougher time getting coverage under workers compensation insurance. With the rising costs of prescription drugs, policies may be changing when it comes to reimbursing doctors for drug treatments.