For Immediate Release
January 2, 2018
Organization unveils aggressive advocacy campaign to urge legislative action
HARRISBURG - As Pennsylvania continues to grapple with the prescription drug and opioid crisis, the PA Chamber is calling on the state House of Representatives to pass S.B. 936 – legislation that would implement a prescription drug formulary for workers’ compensation. Formularies, a standard feature in other areas of healthcare, provide for pre-approval of prescriptions that are FDA-approved or otherwise demonstrated to be effective; and for an authorization process for other medications that may be necessary for the patient. States that have adopted formularies have been able to reduce the overuse of and addiction to prescription drugs among injured workers.
“As the Commonwealth is witnessing unprecedented prescription drug and opioid abuse, it’s incumbent upon our elected officials to implement public policies that will help combat this crisis,” said PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr. “Senate Bill 936 is one way we can help address the overuse of prescription drugs among our injured worker population. With the start of a new year, it’s time that this common-sense legislation is passed by the House and signed into law by the governor.”
As part of its advocacy efforts on this legislation, the PA Chamber has implemented a digital billboard campaign in key locations throughout the Commonwealth. The billboards – which are located on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and in the Harrisburg region – encourage drivers to contact their state representative and urge support for this important legislation that will help to fight opioid abuse among injured workers.
In a recent 25-state study, Pennsylvania ranked third compared to other states for opioid use among injured workers between the years 2012-2014, measuring 78 percent higher than the median study state. Other high-ranking states were New York and California, which ranked second and fourth, respectively. Both states have since passed formulary legislation. Another example is Ohio, which implemented its formulary in 2011, and in the next three years saw the number of opioid prescriptions decline by 38 percent and the number of workers’ compensation patients considered opioid dependent reduced by half.
Despite the proven benefits that formularies have on mitigating opioid abuse, this important measure has been the target of opposition from some acting based on their own self-interest. A September Philadelphia Inquirer article revealed how a large workers’ compensation law firm in the city has aggressively opposed this much needed legislation. The newspaper’s investigation exposed an “unholy alliance” between certain lawyers and doctors who have been manipulating the state’s workers’ compensation system via a complex system wherein the law firm directs clients to specific doctors, who were prescribing expensive medications with dubious legitimacy, and then funneling 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.” The Inquirer story provided several examples, 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. Interestingly, it was recently reported that some partners in the law firm that was exposed in the Inquirer investigation are now trying to divest their controlling interest in the pharmacy, further signaling the questionable nature of their involvement.
“This arrangement in which lawyers and doctors are opening their own 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.