December 16, 2016

Employer Attacks Rx Drug Abuse Among Employees

pill bottleWe all hear nearly every day some new story about the impact of prescription drug abuse on society, law enforcement and healthcare costs.  It has reached a level where the governor of the state of Vermont during his 2014 State of the State address focused primarily on the costs and impacts of drug abuse in the state (citing a 770% increase in the treatment for opiates from 2000 to 2014 and the pathway from prescription drug abuse to the use of heroine).  And, the recent call to action by the head of the CDC for physicians to reduce the amount of opiates being prescribed for post-surgical pain as well as the treatment of chronic pain in general by other means as the preferred first line of action.

Now, an employer has stepped into the fray with its own plan to respond to opioid use among employees.  This was reported in the Wall Street Journal and the employer is Cummins, Inc.  The cost of treating drug abuse is often largely borne by employers with $16.3 billion due to reduced productivity and increased disability in addition to other direct healthcare costs.  Cummins has 55,000 employees and is now requiring that some of them participate in educational sessions targeted specifically at drug abuse.  They have also added testing for opioids to the list of testing done for potential hires.  A positive test doesn’t always lead to discharge, but rather treatment and reassignment to positions where safety isn’t a factor.  And, Cummins recently opened a health center at its corporate headquarters with a full-time pharmacist whose job description includes “guiding workers to alternative pain treatments.”


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