Workplace injuries often lead to months or years of pain, and workers turn to medications like OxyContin or Percocet to manage long-term pain issues. Between 1997 and 2007, doctors increased opioid prescriptions by over 400 percent, leading the federal government to call prescription drug abuse a national concern.
Doctors stand at the center of the abuse scandal because Illinois and other states created perverse incentives for doctors to push pain medications on their patients in a process known as “repackaging”.
What Is Repackaging?
Under Illinois law, doctors may sell drugs to patients, without the use of a pharmacy. Eliminating the middle man allows doctors to take the profits the pharmacy would have gotten, which increases the doctor’s revenue substantially.
When doctors are allowed to sell directly to patients, the doctor has an incentive to sell more expensive options and increase the dosage. Studies show that doctors triple the quantity of the drugs they would normally prescribe, especially in the kinds of cases a Chicago work injury lawyer handles. Doctors know the company’s insurance company has deep pockets, and the insurer is less price sensitive than the patient.
Why Is Repackaging A Problem?
While repacking is an economic boon for doctors, it has serious negative consequences for workers and employers.
Workers who take opiods spend up to 85 percent more time away from their job after pursuing a workers compensation case with a Chicago work injury lawyer than workers who avoid pain medications. Opiods are highly addictive, leading to long-term health risks for workers, including death by overdose.
Employers bear the burden of increased medical costs, and lost productivity from the injured worker. Estimates show employers spend close to an additional $25,000 on workers taking opiods because of the lost work time.
What Is The Solution?
Texas and Florida are leading the way in repackaging reform. Florida’s new laws allow doctors to prescribe strong opiods in workers compensation cases, but the prescription must be filled at a pharmacy. Temporary or weak doses of opiods may be distributed by the doctor to the patient directly. The result was a sharp decrease in opiod prescriptions. Texas banned doctors from dispensing opiods altogether, except in extremely rural areas where pharmacies are not readily available.
Illinois must continue to address the problem of repacking in the cases a Chicago work injury lawyer pursues, and close exploitable loopholes that allow doctors to profit under new regulations.