A handful of drugs prescribed to injured workers in California make up a “disproportionate” share of workers’ comp payments, according to research released Monday by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute.
The so-called “low-volume/high-cost drugs” include dermatological drugs, opioids and antidepressants and have become cost drivers, the researchers found.
The report says that topical dermatological drugs, the fourth most common drug category in 2021, accounted for 9.3% of workers filling prescriptions but 17.3% of all prescription drug payments. That was up from 12.8% of payments in 2012, which the study attributes to increased use and the rise of expensive topical analgesics.
Opioids̵7; share of total prescriptions continued to decline, with total drug spending falling to 5.8%, down from 26.7% a decade earlier. During the same period, the mix of opioids used to treat injured workers changed, and the study noted three low-volume/expensive opioids that have become cost drivers within their group, including oxycodone, a popular and powerful pain reliever.
The top four antidepressants dispensed to injured workers in 2021 represented nearly 2/3 of the antidepressants used, but all four were relatively inexpensive drugs and accounted for only 42.5% of payments in that drug group.