Painkillers and other prescriptions often play a vital role in the treatment of workplace injuries. According to a recent study, more doctors in Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the country are writing and then filling prescriptions for workers’ compensation patients. The doctors who fill their own prescriptions sometimes get paid more per pill than pharmacists, which may have an impact on cost within the workers’ compensation system.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reviewed almost 5.7 million prescriptions paid under workers’ compensation for 758,000 claims between 2007 and 2011 in 23 states. Pennsylvania was among the states reviewed. Since some federal laws limit the ability of doctors to fill prescriptions for drugs and tests and derive profit, not every doctor is able to fill the prescriptions she or he writes. In addition, some state laws also prohibit the practice.
Despite the prohibitions, the study found that 20 percent of the prescriptions filled for workers’ compensation claims in Pennsylvania were filled by a doctor. The number of workers’ compensation prescriptions filled by doctors is on the rise. Three years ago, around 17 percent of workers’ compensation prescriptions were filled by doctors. Moreover, the percentage of payments to doctors for prescriptions also rose. The percentage of payments rose from 15 percent to 27 percent over the same three year time period.
The price of prescription drugs is one of the greatest factors in healthcare costs, and the study found that prices paid to doctors for certain prescriptions were generally higher than those paid to pharmacies.
Though the WCRI claims it is an independent research organization, the majority of the group’s funding comes from the insurance industry. The American Medical Association supports the right of doctors to dispense drugs, especially when it is in the best interest of patients.
Source: Philly.com, “Study Says Doctors Increasingly Fill Prescriptions,” David Sell, July 19, 2012