Worker’s comp to phase out use of OxyContin

The state fund for injured workers will stop covering new prescriptions for OxyContin, one of the most widely abused painkillers that has been blamed for launching the nation’s opioid crisis.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation also says it wants to begin phasing out the drug for injured workers currently taking it.

Montgomery County’s Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board called it a positive move that provides a good alternative for injured workers that could prevent addiction.

“We support any efforts to reduce or prevent addiction,” ADAMHS spokeswoman Paula Cosby said.

The bureau will stop new prescriptions for OxyContin on June 1 and replace that drug with Xtampza ER, a drug that it says is as effective as OxyContin but harder to abuse.

“Xtampza is a sustained-release form of oxycodone, like OxyContin, but it utilizes a unique abuse-deterrent technology that makes it difficult to manipulate — crush, snort or inject — for aberrant use,” Terry Welsh, the bureau’s chief medical officer, said in a statement. “Thanks to technology, this just seems like the next responsible step to protect our injured workers from potential addiction and overdose death to dangerous drugs.”

Xtampza ER, approved by the FDA in 2016, was the second abuse-deterrent form of oxycodone to hit the market. Studies of the effectiveness of abuse-deterrent formulas have shown conflicting results, according to a 2018 review in the journal Anesthesiology — they reduce abuse of oral opioids, but may increase the number of people who transition to IV heroin.

It’s a fact that those in active addiction are going to seek out ways to abuse drugs, Cosby said, but the move to an abuse-deterrent option is a step in the right direction to prevent new addictions.

Welsh said the bureau will phase out use of OxyContin and generic oxycodone sustained-release tablets over time.

Currently, 1,057 workers are taking those drugs, the bureau said.

The bureau has been taking steps since 2011 to mitigate the impact of opioids on Ohio’s workforce. It established guidelines in 2016 meant to help doctors address patients in pain and those who have become dependent on drugs.

Between 2011 and 2018, the number of opioid doses prescribed in the bureau system fell 66 percent.

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