What’s the cost of America’s opioid problem?

Companies must deal with lost productivity as well as higher medical costs.

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Companies must deal with lost productivity as well as higher medical costs from America’s widespread opiate problem.

A Seattle-based analytics company found that U.S. employers lose $25.6 billion annually due to pain killer misuse. Lost work accounts for a $10 billion loss alone, the Portland Business Journal reports.

Healthentic reviewed population data from 2011 to 2014 and identified the groups with the highest risk for painkiller abuse. It found 13 percent of opioid users are at risk for chronic use, and they account for 92 percent of an employer’s overall opioid health care costs. Oregon has the second-highest rate in the country in nonmedical use of prescription opioids. There was no Oregon-specific data in the study.

On average, opioid misuse kills nearly 50 people every day and costs the U.S. economy $55.7 billion a year. Healthentic found that 7 percent of people who were prescribed an opioid in the past four years have two or more causes for concern with chronic use. Causes for concern are 10 or more opioid prescriptions, a supply of 120 days or more or a week or more of overlapping opioid or benzodiazepine prescriptions.

Healthentic provided suggestions for what employers can do to help their workers: Work with health programs that have limited prescribing guidelines; understand who is at risk in the company; provide educational resources for employees; ensure judgment-free access to treatment options.


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