COLUMBUS — The powerful painkiller Oxycontin, widely blamed for kickstarting the nation’s opioid crisis, will no longer be newly prescribed for injured workers in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s system starting July 1.
Following a recommendation from BWC Chief Medical Officer Terry Welsh, the agency’s Board of Directors voted to drop the drug from the BWC formulary and replace it with what Welsh calls “an equally effective but harder-to-abuse drug” named Xtampza ER.
“Xtampza is a sustained-release form of oxycodone, like OxyContin, but it utilizes a unique abuse-deterrent technology that makes it difficult to manipulate — crush, snort or inject — for aberrant use,” said Welsh. “Thanks to technology, this just seems like the next responsible step to protect our injured workers from potential addiction and overdose death to dangerous drugs.”
Welsh said the agency will phase out the use of Oxycontin and generic oxycodone sustained-release tablets over time, following best clinical practices and consultation with prescribing physicians.
“When an on-the-job injury causes someone serious discomfort, we want that worker to get the needed pain relief, but we also want to ensure that work injuries don’t lead to addiction,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Changing BWC’s formulary and replacing Oxycontin with a comparable painkiller that is less susceptible to abuse is the responsible thing to do. I commend BWC for taking this step to prevent addiction among injured workers.”
Welsh added the move was recommended by BWC’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, a diverse group of pharmacists and prescribing physicians who advise the bureau on matters regarding appropriate prescription and authorization of medicines. The committee’s recommendation follows a thorough consideration of current literature, accepted treatment guidelines, best clinical practices, FDA recommendations and information published by drug manufacturers.
The board’s vote follows other critical changes since 2011 by the agency to mitigate the opioid epidemic’s impact on Ohio’s workforce. This includes the creation of a pharmacy and therapeutics committee; the development of BWC’s first-ever, and now nationally-recognized, formulary; and the 2016 Opioid Rule that holds prescribers accountable if they don’t follow best practices. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of opioid doses prescribed in the BWC system fell 66 percent.
“I applaud Dr. Welsh, our medical staff and the BWC Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee for their concerted efforts in this area,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “As Gov. Mike DeWine has stated, no one single person or agency will solve this crisis — it takes a collective effort. Our work continues, and I am proud we are doing our part.”