- The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) will now encourage employers to take a proactive approach to dealing with the effects of the opioid crisis in the workplace, the organization announced Wednesday morning. NBGH recommends employers team up with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to verify their health plans follow the national guidelines for opioid prescriptions.
- The organization urged employers to reach out to their PBMs and health plans to ensure they include specific strategies and rules that can better shield U.S. workplaces from the opioid crisis. Plans should not only require physicians to opt for the lowest effective dose when writing a script, but also to prescribe immediate-release opioids rather than extended release or long-acting drugs when an employee begins therapy for chronic pain, NBGH said, adding that opioid prescriptions for acute pain should last a patient no more than three days and doctors should avoid re-prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines whenever they can.
- More than half of employers (60%) have been affected by at least one case of opioid misuse or abuse according to a recent survey of 62 large employers by NBGH. These issues included increased medical or pharmacy costs for chronic opioid users (40%), increased absences among chronic users (40%) and employee overdoses (18%).
Opioid addiction can unleash a slew of workplace problems: Absenteeism, lateness, turnover, lost productivity, crime can all result from misuse of drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine. And substance abuse racks up a $600 billion bill in healthcare costs every year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This can’t be a blind spot for employers.
"I think a good starting point for employers is to take a step back and analyze their own claims data, to take a step back and analyze the magnitude of this problem in their own company," NBGH president and CEO Brian Marcotte told HR Dive in an interview.
Once employers determine the extent to which the opioid problem is present in their organizations, they can take a more active role in addressing the epidemic plaguing the workforce. Earlier this year, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams pushed employers to educate their employees about the dangers of this class of drugs, noting that many who fill their prescriptions for opiates aren't aware of the risks. A workplace can better address the crisis when a company trains its employees and managers to recognize the signs of substance abuse and educates them on the resources available, Marcotte said.
"An individual is more likely to talk to a peer than a supervisor," Marcotte said. "Awareness and conversations can steer people to resources."