The title of a recent op-ed (May 25, CPBJ) asks whether Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of prescription drug abuse legislation will improve workers’ comp in Pennsylvania. There is no question: this veto hurts the system and, more importantly, represents a missed opportunity in the fight against prescription drug abuse.
Senate Bill. 936 called for a prescription drug formulary for workers’ compensation. States across the country have passed this in response to prescription drug abuse among injured workers and their data shows less opioids and addiction. Ohio, for example, implemented a formulary in 2011 and within a few years cut in half the number of opioid-dependent injured workers. Their workers’ comp pharmacy director said: “Our workers’ comp drug formulary has been a critical part of our statewide effort to fight prescription drug and opioid overuse and abuse.”
The op-ed author’s hyperbolic talk of the “dangers of this bill” and “dismantling the workers’ compensation act” is simply disconnected from reality. Drug formularies are standard in virtually every other area of health care – CHIP, Medicare, VA, private insurance, etc. Their utilization in workers’ comp has been promoted with bipartisan support – including by liberal governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Jerry Brown.
California’s Workers’ Compensation Director said: “The adoption of the drug formulary is a step forward for California’s injured workers and should help address the overuse of high-risk medications such as opioids. It is expected to improve patient care and ease approval of appropriate treatment.”
Anyone paying attention knows opposition had nothing to do with patient health – after all, numerous groups representing doctors supported the bill. This veto was a victory for trial lawyers; in particular, those allegedly involved in a money-making arrangement revealed in a series of investigative reports from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer’s exposé described how a workers’ compensation law firm partnered with a small network of doctors to prescribe clients exorbitantly priced, non FDA-approved compound creams and send these unsuspecting patients to pharmacies co-owned by the lawyers and doctors themselves. The report identified these individuals as the opponents aggressively fighting to defeat S.B. 936.
Director of Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry