July 16, 2010

"Pill Mills": The Prescription Drug Industry in Georgia

by David W. Willis, Esq.

The prescription drug industry in Georgia has become an increasingly hot topic and bears close monitoring by the workers' compensation industry. As has been detailed in recent weeks by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets, a proposed prescription drug monitoring program in Georgia stalled this year in the Georgia legislature which would have discouraged "pill mills" by tracking the dispensation of prescriptions through an electronic database. The database would identify patients who are doctor-shopping and physicians prone to writing large numbers of prescriptions. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as of January 2010, 34 other states had prescription drug monitoring programs in place. Similar legislation promises to be in the works again next year, but for now local governments must be pro-active with monitoring the prescription drug industry.

Employers and insurers should carefully monitor this situation as it pertains to their workers' compensation claims. Addiction consequences of prescription medications (especially narcotics) have been widely discussed but continue to deserve attention. However, pain clinics and pain management doctors who seem to prescribe an unending cocktail of drugs should also be viewed with a critical eye. Are the medications truly helping to reach the goals of giving relief, effecting a cure, or restoring the employee to suitable employment? Are the medications "reasonably required"? Employers and insurers should keep these questions in mind at the outset of any claim, but particularly those in which ongoing medical treatment is required.

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