A powerful opioid painkiller recently released to the market is raising concerns among workers’ compensation experts as the insurance industry continues to struggle with opioid addiction and abuse among injured workers.
The narcotic makeup of the new drug, hydrocodone bitartrate extended-release capsules under the brand Zohydro ER, could lead to a higher incidence of opioid addiction, some experts fear, though the drug’s manufacturer argues that it is no more potent than other opioids on the market.
The release of Zohydro ER comes as workers comp expert debate how to prevent opioid dependence and overdoses among patients receiving narcotic prescriptions long after the immediate aftermath of a severe injury or surgery. A recent release of a separate drug to treat opioid overdoses is seen a useful tool in those efforts.
“We’re seeing a decrease in opioid use, but it’s nowhere where it needs to be,” said Brian Carpenter, Tucson, Ariz.-based vice president of pharmacy product at Coventry Workers’ Comp Services, a division of Aetna Inc. “We, as an industry, have many patients who are still in the danger zone of taking these types of medications.”
“We’re still in the midst of this opioid crisis, and we need to continue to … give the tools for responsible prescribing and monitoring and patient education,” said Dr. Robert L. Hall, medical director at Progressive Medical Inc., a Westerville, Ohio-based pharmacy benefit manager.
Zohydro ER, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year, was released to the market last month. The FDA classifies the extended-release pill, which contains 10 to 50 milligrams of hydrocodone, as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it requires a doctor’s prescription and refills are not allowed…
Workers comp experts urge caution with the drug, saying it requires safety protocols such as patient monitoring and consultations with physicians to help them prescribe less risky drugs.