Of that amount, $10 billion is from lost work and productivity alone, according to Healthenic, a Seattle-based analytics company that helps employers identify health savings.Healthentic reviewed population data from 2011 to 2014 and identified the groups with the highest risk for painkiller abuse. It found 13 percent of opioid users are at risk for chronic use, and they account for 92 percent of an employer’s overall opioid health care costs.
Oregon has the second-highest rate in the country in nonmedical use of prescription opioids. There was no Oregon-specific data in the study.
On average, opioid misuse kills nearly 50 people every day and costs the U.S. economy $55.7 billion a year. Healthentic found that 7 percent of people who were prescribed an opioid in the past four years have two or more causes for concern with chronic use.
Causes for concern are 10 or more opioid prescriptions, a supply of 120 days or more or a week or more of overlapping opioid or benzodiazepine prescriptions.
The problem affects employers in several ways, beyond the higher medical costs.
“People with chronic opioid problems miss work more than people who don’t, so there’s a big productivity loss,” said Healthentic CEO Jeff O’Mara. “Employers are uniquely situated to do something about it and help folks.”
Among the suggestions for what employers can do are the following, according to Healthentic:
- Insist on conservative prescribing guidelines for participating providers in all health programs;
- Know who is at risk in the company’s specific population, using HIPAA-compliant technology and targeting those individuals;
- Educate employees about the risk of opioid drug use and about proper disposal of unused medications;
- Increase and ensure confidential access to treatment.
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