The recent article by Elizabeth Donald, “Metro-east buying opioid drugs at much higher rate than nation,” draws attention to the growth in prescription opioid abuse in Illinois. But the article made no mention of the role Illinois’ broken workers’ compensation system plays in subsidizing opioid over-prescription.
Illinois law allows doctors to sell “repackaged” drugs directly to injured workers at mark-ups of 60 to 300 percent and pass the cost on to employers who have no choice but to pay whatever the physicians charge. Research from the independent Worker’s Compensation Research Institute shows that when doctors are paid to prescribe, they prescribe more than three times as many opioids as when patients get drugs from a pharmacist.
As your article rightly notes, over-prescribing opioids can lead patients down a path of addiction. Florida had a problem with rising prescription opioid abuse like Illinois does today, but to reverse that trend, eliminated pay-to-prescribe for strong painkillers. Abolishing pay-to-prescribe in Illinois would help alleviate Illinois’ own growing problem.
Mark Adams, Director of Regulatory Reform, Illinois Policy Institute, Chicago