Worker report shows significant drop in opioid use

San Diego — Opioid use linked to workers’ compensation claims declined nearly 10% in 2023, marking one of the largest declines the workers’ compensation industry has seen known for years, according to a new report.

For its annual Pharmacy Solutions Drug Trends report, property and casualty insurance industry service provider Enlyte examined the workers’ compensation trends its clients have experienced over the past year. The report provides an overview of in-network and out-of-network (retail and mail order) prescriptions.

All categories of opioids showed a decrease in use. This includes consumption of extended-release opioids, which has fallen by more than 10%. The report commends regulators and workers’ compensation professionals, whose efforts contributed to a 9.7% decline in opioid use per claim.

Alternatives to opioids, commonly prescribed to manage acute and chronic pain, have also seen a decline in use per claim. The use of anticonvulsants decreased by 7.4%, as did that of antidepressants (6.1%) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (3%).

Overall, retail and mail order prescription usage per claim fell by more than 5%.

The report also shows a decline in utilization per claim among all but one of the largest therapeutic classes (based on cost): migraine medications, which jumped 17%.

In the United States, nearly 280,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids between 1999 and 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.