by Frank A. Wasser, Esq.

Another prominent topic at the seminar, and certainly one we have reported on frequently in the past few years, is the opioid drug epidemic and its impact in workers’ compensation cases. Despite the increase in opioid use and abuse nationwide, there is some evidence that opioid use among Georgia’s workers’ compensation claimants is decreasing. As discussed at last week’s Seminar, in Georgia workers’ compensation claims, the amount of opioid prescriptions filled by claimants decreased by almost 20 percent from 2012 to 2014.

Specific measures implemented in the past few years may have contributed to this decrease. In 2011, Georgia revised reimbursement rules regarding physician dispensed drugs. These reforms were intended to de-incentivize the prescription of opioid medications, and to place a cap on the costs physicians may charge for these medications. More recently, in 2013, Georgia passed the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act in order to control pill mills. Georgia has also instituted a prescription drug monitoring program, which is intended to regulate opioid prescriptions and prevent patients from double dipping on opioid prescriptions.

Despite improvements, however, opioid addiction is still a primary concern for all parties in workers’ compensation cases. Chairman McKay stated that additional treatment guidelines and formularies are being considered to continue to curb the use and abuse of opioid medications.