CAMBRIDGE, MA, –WorkCompWire– October 28, 2010 – The cost of prescription drugs for injured workers in Minnesota was the lowest among the 17 states studied, according to a report from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).
The study by the Cambridge, MA-based WCRI found that among claims with prescriptions paid under workers’ compensation, the average payment per claim for prescription drugs in Minnesota was $240, or 42 percent lower than the median of 16 states included in an earlier WCRI Prescription Benchmarks study.
The main reasons for the lower costs of prescription drugs in Minnesota include lower average prices paid to pharmacies for some of the medications commonly used to treat injured workers, more frequent use of generic equivalents and alternatives of more expensive brand name drugs, and fewer prescriptions for a fewer number of pills per claim prescribed and filled, especially for some commonly used narcotics.
The WCRI study, Prescription Benchmarks for Minnesota, reported that the average price per pill paid to pharmacies in Minnesota was 25 percent lower than the 16-state median. Prices paid were lower for some common drugs, such as Percocet® and OxyContin®.
The study pointed out that brand name medications were used less frequently in Minnesota than in the other study states – brand name prescriptions accounted for 9 percent of all prescriptions in Minnesota, compared to 15 percent at the 16-state median. Because prices paid for brand names were higher on average than prices paid for generic drugs, fewer brand name prescriptions contributed to the lower average price paid in Minnesota.
Injured workers in Minnesota were more likely to receive less expensive generic drugs because physicians prescribed – or allowed pharmacies to substitute – generic equivalents of brand name drugs more often when they were available. In fact, generic substitution is mandatory in Minnesota, unless the physician specifies that generic substitution is not allowed. In the absence of generic equivalents, Minnesota physicians were more likely to use alternative medications that were therapeutically equivalent to, but less expensive than, the brand name drugs.
The utilization of prescription drugs in Minnesota was also lower compared to most states studied, according to WCRI.
The study reported that the average number of pills per claim for claims with prescriptions was 19 percent lower than the 16-state median, largely because Minnesota physicians wrote and workers filled fewer prescriptions per claim, particularly for commonly used narcotics like Vicodin® and OxyContin®.
The study noted that some physicians wrote and dispensed prescription drugs directly to the patient at their offices. This was common in several study states, but not in Minnesota. WCRI has also found that in some states where physician dispensing was common, prices for medications paid to physicians were often much higher than prices paid to pharmacies for the same prescriptions, driving up the prescription costs. This was not the case in Minnesota.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization conducting public policy research on workers’ compensation, health care and disability issues. Its members include employers, insurers, and governmental entities, insurance regulators and state administrative agencies, as well as several state labor organizations.