Pharmacy Inflation in Workers' Comp Down Significantly From 2003

April 18, 2005 ( - Pharmacy inflation in workers' compensation was at only 6% in 2004, down from 13% in 2003.

According to a study from The Hartford, the moderation in cost increase was due to careful pharmacy management which includes an extensive review process, according to a press release from the financial services firm.

While pharmacy costs have doubled as a percentage of workers’ compensation costs over the past five years, and while injured workers are receiving more drugs that on average also cost more, data suggests the trend may be slowing, according to the news release. The list of the top 25 drugs prescribed under workers’ compensation represents 61% of all prescription medicine prescribed for workers’ compensation, up from 58% in 2003.

The study does suggest, however, that off-label drugs – those not approved by the Food and Drug Administration – are still contributing to higher pharmaceutical costs.

Dr. Robert Bonner, The Hartford’s medical director, also noted that despite widespread negative publicity in 2004, several drugs, such as Actiq and Neurontin, continued to be widely used for workers’ compensation patients. Neurontin and Oxycontin, both drugs that have been plagued with problems in past years, continue to be in the top 25 drugs prescribed under workers’ compensation.

Not surprisingly, drugs associated with pain relief dominated the top 25 list for workers’ compensation prescriptions.

“Still I worry that a ‘newer is better’ philosophy may put patients on stronger, riskier drugs when more established medications often have lower risk and cost,” Bonner states. CitingCelebrex (number three on the list), Vioxx (number seven on the list despite being withdrawn from the market nine months into 2004) and Bextra (number six on the list), Bonner made clear that the drugs were frequently used in place of drugs such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen.

The Hartford ( ) is a financial services and insurance company with 2004 revenues of $22.7 billion.