The cost of analgesic creams for injured workers increased by 10% from 2015 to 2019, despite the lack of approval from the Food and Drug Administration for most of the composite drugs, and a lack of guidelines for use and efficacy, according to a study that was released on Thursday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
WCRI data were based on data from 480,000 workers in 28 states who had prescriptions and suffered workplace injuries in 2018 and early 2019, with researchers monitoring prescription use and diagnoses over a one-year period.
The report showed that payment rates increased from 9% in the first quarter of 2015 to 19% in the first three months of 2020.
Called "topical analgesics", the products come in the form of creams, gels, patches and other solutions and has been praised in recent years as an alternative to opioids for pain relief for muscles and nerves, although the report highlights that research is lagging behind. For example, the FDA has not approved many of these products, which are not usually included in evidence-based treatment guidelines for injured workers, the study says.