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Workers’ comp study explores effectiveness of programs, policies on reducing opioid prescriptions

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Cambridge, MA — Certain programs and policies may help curb the excessive prescribing of opioids and potential misuse, results of a recent study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute suggest.

Looking at data on worker injuries that occurred in 33 states from October 2009 through March 2018, researchers compared various outcomes in states that had adopted must-access prescription drug monitoring programs and regulations that limit the duration of initial opioid prescriptions with outcomes in states that did not. Must-access prescription drug monitoring programs legally require providers to access a state-level database with a patient’s prescription history before prescribing controlled substances under certain circumstances.

Results show that must-access prescription drug monitoring programs reduced the amount of opioids prescribed 12% in the first year. Meanwhile, the new regulations “resulted in a 19% decrease in the amount of opioids among claims with opioids,” according to a WCRI press release.


Although evidence of injured workers showing increased use of other types of care as a result of must-access prescription drug monitoring programs was minimal, the policies led to more use of non-opioid pain medications and more pain management interventions in cases of neurologic spine pain.

“The policies examined were part of an extensive effort by stakeholders at local, state, and national levels to address potential excessive opioid prescribing and opioid abuse,” WCRI President and CEO John Ruser said in the release. “Must-access PDMPs reduced the amount of opioids prescribed to workers without changing the likelihood that workers had any opioid prescriptions.”

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