Using data derived from the 10.8 million workers comp prescriptions dispensed between January 2005 and December 2014, a recently released report by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute identified opioids as the number one prescribed drug in California’s workers’ compensation system.

Report findings indicate that opioid prescriptions accounted for 27.2% of total prescribed pharmaceuticals. In addition, the average cost of opioid prescriptions rose by 85% from $61 to $113. In comparison, other prescription drugs within the same time frame experienced only a 39% increase, from $94 to $131. The report also indicated the proportion of injured workers prescribed opioids within the first 24 months following injury increased from 22.4% in 2005, to 27.9% in 2010.

Some positive trends were revealed however – in 2014, opioids dispensed to injured workers in the state dropped to 27.2%, from a 2009 peak of 31.9%. Also, the impending implementation of a statewide formulary is expected to contribute to reduced opioid use.

At the end of the day however, opioid use is still excessive. While prescription drug monitoring programs have been a focus of California state regulators, other California Workers’ Compensation Institute studies of utilization review have shown that medical management resources in California have been disproportionately directed to the review of requests for opioids and pain management drugs.

In workers’ compensation pain management, opioids continue to be prescribed in situations where their use may not be entirely appropriate, increasing the patient’s risk of addiction or overdose. ANS’s pharmacotherapy review program has been highly successful in uncovering overprescribing and ineffective management of patient treatment plans not just in California but across the country. The work of our legal nurse experts lays the ground work for pain treatment regimens that reduce the financial costs of large loss claims, while improving quality of care and life for injured workers.

To learn more about our success rate in California, contact ANS Solutions today.


Hayes, Steve, Swedlow, Alex. “California Workers’ Compensation Institute: Trends in The USE of Opioids in California’s Workers’ Compensation System,” May 2016.