April 13, 2016

Opioid Use Decreases While NSAIDs and Cholesterol Drugs Increase

, Cost Containment
, Network Solutions

While opioids have seen a double-digit percentage decrease in 2015, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and anticonvulsants saw increases as well as a rise in the use of high blood cholesterol drugs, according to a recent industry report.

Stephanie Goldberg examines the recent drug trends in a new article in Business Insurance. In her article, Goldberg quotes Mark Pew, senior vice president at Prium, a medical management company. Pew notes that there is a correlation between the decrease in opioids and increase in NSAIDs. He said that NSAIDS are a more appropriate treatment for opioids for musculoskeletal pain; however, no drug is risk-free, he said.

The decrease in opioid utilization can partially be attributed to formularies, as lately much attention has been brought to opioid prescribing.

According to the article, in 2015, two anticonvulsants and three NSAIDs ranked among the 25 most commonly dispensed medications, while nine of the top 25 drugs were opioids. Opioids are still the most expensive and most highly utilized therapy class for injured workers, the industry report states.

As for the increase in high blood cholesterol drugs, it is unexpected to some industry experts, as these drugs aren’t typically covered under workers’ compensation. They are covered in some presumptions laws which extend workers’ compensation benefits to public safety officers and first responders. Some carriers have chosen to accept conditions like high cholesterol, which may also account for the increased use, according to the article.

As the drug trend ebb and flow, a comprehensive pharmacy solution is essential to effective management. When evaluating pharmacy spend, knowing the total exposure is key. From a single database, CorVel is able to review all transactions for all dispensing channels, including physician dispensers, third party services and alternate/mail order pharmacies.

For more information, read the article in its entirety: “Opioid use reduction coincides with puzzling cholesterol drug increase” and visit CorVel’s website.