Study Looks at Polypharmacy Claims in California Workers’ Comp

August 23, 2018

A study from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute shows the likelihood that indemnity was paid on a workers’ comp claim increased with the number of concurrent prescriptions the injured worker was on.

Concurrent use of multiple medications to treat one or multiple medical conditions has become prevalent, with up to 10 percent of the U.S. population and up to 30 percent of older adults taking five or more drugs simultaneously, according to the CWCI study.

The study uses 2016 to 2017 prescription data to measure the prevalence of what’s known as polypharmacy in California workers’ comp and to identify the types of drugs included in polypharmacy prescribing.

Claims with five or more concurrent medications during the two-year study period were defined as polypharmacy claims.

Among the findings:

  • Twenty-four percent of claims with at least one dispensed drug during calendar years 2016 and 2017 had three or more different prescription drugs concurrently dispensed.
  • The likelihood that indemnity was paid on a claim increased with the number of concurrent prescriptions. More than half (51.6 percent) of the claims with one to two prescription drugs were indemnity cases versus 91.3 percent of those with five or more concurrent drugs.
  • Polypharmacy claims tend to be older, with 21.5 percent of polypharmacy claims being at least 10 years old, compared to 6.0 percent of the non- polypharmacy claims.
  • Claims involving back conditions without spinal cord involvement (including sprain and strain injuries) account for the highest proportion of polypharmacy claims (21.3 percent).
  • A high proportion of the polypharmacy claims involve older workers, with more than half (52.3 percent) of the polypharmacy claims involving injured workers who were 50 years of age or older versus 38.3 percent of the claims with fewer concurrent medications.
  • Analgesic opioids and anti-inflammatories were the top two therapeutic drug groups when three or more chugs were concurrently prescribed.
  • The combination of opioids, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants accounted for the highest proportion of three-drug combinations (4.5 percent).

The full report can be downloaded at the CWCI website.

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