Injured Workers’ Drug Costs Higher in Florida Than Other States

April 15, 2010

The payment per claim for prescription drugs used to treat injured workers in Florida was nearly 40 percent higher than in most study states, according to a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).

The 16-state study by the Cambridge, Mass.-based WCRI found that the average payment per claim for prescription drugs in Florida’s workers’ compensation system was $565—38 percent higher than the median of the study states.

The main reason for the higher prescription costs in Florida was that some physicians wrote prescriptions and dispensed the prescribed medications directly to their patients. When physicians dispensed prescription drugs, they often were paid much more than pharmacies for the same prescription.

The WCRI study, Prescription Benchmarks for Florida, found that some Florida physicians wrote prescriptions more often for certain drugs that were especially profitable. For example, Carisoprodol (Soma, a muscle relaxant) was prescribed for 11 percent of the Florida injured workers with prescriptions, compared to 2 to 4 percent in most other study states.

Financial incentives may help explain more frequent prescription of the drug, as the study suggested. The price per pill paid to Florida physician dispensers for Carisoprodol was 4 times higher than if the same prescription was filled at pharmacies in the state.

The study reported that the average number of prescriptions per claim in Florida was 17 percent higher than in the median state. Similar results can be seen in the average number of pills per claim.

WCRI also noted that prices paid to Florida pharmacies were at the median of the 16 study states, due to Florida’s typical pharmacy fee schedule, which is set at the level of the Average Wholesale Price.

The WCRI study is the first in an annual series that benchmarks the cost, price and utilization of pharmaceuticals in workers’ compensation.

WCRI is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit workers’ compensation research organization.

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