Pa. may change drug-prescribing guidelines for those on workers’ comp

    (AP File Photo/Toby Talbot)

    (AP File Photo/Toby Talbot)

    The Pennsylavania House in Harrisburg is considering a bill that would change prescription drug rules for patients in Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation program. 

    The legislation was partly inspired by the unusually high rate of opioid prescriptions being given to those patients.

    A 2016 study from the independent Workers’ Compensation Research Institute showed people receiving care under workers’ comp are prescribed opioids at higher-than-average rates. It also showed the prescription rates in Pennsylvania rank near the top.

    The bill would establish what’s known as a drug formulary for the compensation system. It would recommend drugs based on FDA approval status and medical evidence, and require authorization for certain medications.

    Jeffrey Jacobs, a doctor with the medical consulting firm WorkCare, testified at the hearing. He said when he was practicing medicine, he was initially skeptical of prescribing guidelines.

    But, he said, he changed his tune.

    “Truthfully, what I found is that I’m getting better results,” Jacobs said. “I’m not having the problems of people addicted to opioids because I’m just not prescribing them that much. My patients don’t need them.”

    Sponsor Ryan Mackenzie, a Republican representative from Berks County, noted the guidelines are for all drugs—not just opioids.

    But he said he expects the bill will have the greatest impact where opioids are concerned.

    “Because it is such a high-profile issue—the opioid epidemic—there’s actually been a lot of research on the topic, and so that gives us really strong data to use in trying to craft solutions,” he said.

    Mackenzie sponsored a similar—but broader—bill last session. It would have issued guidelines for all treatments—not just drug prescriptions.

    Some dissenters at the hearing argued the bill is still too cookie-cutter in its approach to prescribing. 

    Mackenzie said he’s open to amending the legislation.

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