Commission to Tackle Opioid Abuse
Chairman Charlton Allen of the North Carolina Industrial Commission announced in early February he will appoint a task force to address opioid abuse and addiction, which have claimed the lives of at least nine North Carolina workers in recent years and are causing problems nationwide.
"Opioid misuse and addiction are a major public health crisis in this state. Many injured workers are prescribed opioid medications as part of treatment for their injuries, creating a nexus between the problems affecting the general population and the workers' compensation system," he said.
According to a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which looked at prescriptions written for painkillers in every state, North Carolina had between 96-143 prescriptions per 100 people. Although that puts North Carolina among the states with the highest prescriptions for painkillers, it reflects a common pattern. CDC reported earlier that in 2012 physicians nationwide wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills. The Industrial Commission looked at opioid misuse originating from or exacerbated by workplace injuries as part of its study last year on developing a drug formulary. The agency says its Workers' Compensation Opioid Task Force will be composed of representatives from various stakeholders in the state's workers' comp system.
The CDC notes actions at the state level can have an impact on prescribing patterns, and highlights the success of Florida in reversing overdose trends. Alarmed over a nearly 30% increase in overdose deaths between 2006-2010, Florida adopted legislative and enforcement actions which have resulted in the death rate dropping nearly 25% in recent years. Florida has also seen declines in prescribing rates for oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone.