Dermatological Agents, NSAIDs Are Leading Prescription Cost Drivers in New 28-State WCRI Drug Trends Study

May 25, 2021
Dermatological Agents NSAIDs Are Leading Prescription Cost Drivers in New 28State WCRI Drug Trends Study image

In most states, dermatological agents accounted for about 20 percent of total prescription payments in 2020Q1.

In most states, dermatological agents accounted for about 20 percent of total prescription payments in the first quarter of 2020 (2020Q1), according to a new FlashReport from the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

 “This study finds that prescription payments are decreasing in a majority of state workers’ compensation systems, but prescription payments continue to vary widely,” says John Ruser, president and CEO of WCRI, in a news release. “This study breaks prescription drugs into groups (dermatological agents, NSAIDs, opioids, compounds, etc.) so you can see where workers’ compensation prescribing dollars are being spent and whether spending for those groups of drugs is going up or down.”

 According to the FlashReport, Interstate Variation and Trends in Workers’ Compensation Drug Payments: 2017Q1 to 2020Q1, prescription payments per medical claim decreased by 15 percent or more in 20 of the 28 states over the study period. As of 2020Q1, per claim payments in the highest state were more than eight times higher than in the lower state. While focused primarily on the time before COVID-19, the study also provides data at a high level on the impact of COVID-19 on prescription drug payments and opioids during the first quarter of the pandemic.

For dermatological agents, per-claim payments varied widely, from $7 per claim in Iowa to $181 per claim in Illinois and $190 per claim in Louisiana in 2020Q1. Physician dispensing accounted for the majority of payments for the drug group in 12 of the 28 study states. Between 2017Q1 and 2020Q1, payment shares increased by more than 10 percentage points in 5 states (Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia) and physician dispensing contributed to the rapid growth.

The 28 states in the study are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In each quarter, prescriptions that were dispensed for all medical claims with injuries occurring within three years of the prescription fill date and paid under workers’ compensation were included. 

The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA, that aims to be a catalyst for significant improvements in workers' compensation systems.

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