For Immediate Release
September 26, 2017
HARRISBURG - The lead story in the Sept. 24 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer exposes an “unholy alliance” between certain lawyers, doctors and pharmacies manipulating Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system, PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr said. The article further helped reveal how the law firm at the center of this scandal is working to defeat an important prescription drug and opioid abuse prevention initiative which could disrupt their unethical arrangement.
The newspaper investigation unveiled a complex system wherein a workers’ compensation claimants law firm is directing clients to specific doctors who prescribe medications with dubious legitimacy and then funnel the unsuspecting patients to pharmacies owned by the doctors and lawyers themselves. According to the article: “The pharmacy then charges employers or their insurance companies for the workers’ pain medicine, sometimes at sky-high prices.” Several examples were highlighted in the article, including one instance in which the pharmacy charged $1,900 for a tube of cream that retails for around $14 – an over 13,000 percent mark-up.
“The Philadelphia Inquirer investigative piece shines a light on an unconscionable and scandalous arrangement in Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system,” said Barr. “Rather than focusing on injured workers and the best treatment to get them back on their feet, certain lawyers and doctors have chosen to take advantage of an inadequate state law. And who’s hurt in the end? Pennsylvania’s competitiveness as workers comp costs increase and the injured workers who have become pawns in these complex systems.”
The article goes on to describe this law firm’s opposition to H.B. 18 – a bill to implement a workers’ compensation drug formulary in which doctors writing prescriptions that are not FDA-approved or otherwise demonstrated to be effective must at least explain why the prescription is necessary for the patient. Drug formularies have been shown to address overuse of and addiction to prescription drugs among injured workers. For example, in the three years after Ohio implemented its formulary in 2011, the number of workers’ compensation patients considered opioid dependent was reduced by half. Pennsylvania – and the entire nation – is in the midst of an opioid epidemic and passing H.B. 18 would help injured workers avoid addiction.
House Bill 18 was passed by the House Labor and Industry Committee, but unfortunately a procedural motion led by Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, circumvented a vote by the full House. The bill is currently awaiting consideration in the House Rules Committee.
“This relationship between lawyers, doctors and pharmacies is wrong – but even more disturbing is the lengths they’ve gone to oppose good legislation that would build on the work of the legislature and Governor to combat this tragic prescription drug and opioid epidemic,” Barr added. “We urge the House to quickly pass this much needed reform.”
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its statewide membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.