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Almost one-third of prescriptions paid for by Ohio’s insurance fund for injured workers last year were for painkillers. The state has seen a 37 percent increase in the use of such drugs among injured employees over the past 10 years.

John Hanna, Pharmacy Director at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, said almost one out of every five dollars the agency pays out in medical benefits goes toward prescription drugs, according to the Associated Press.

In an interview, Hanna said some of the agency’s patients are “shipwrecks” who have been mistreated by prescribing doctors. He added the bureau has 7,000 injured workers who are taking doses of painkillers at levels that meet the definition for being physically dependent on the medication. “When you consider the levels of opiates that some of our clients are receiving, there’s serious questions out there,” he said.

The bureau is now restricting the drugs that doctors can prescribe after treatment for the initial pain that stems from an injury. From February to April this year, the bureau saw a 12 percent decrease in patients who receive the most powerful narcotic painkillers.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do as an agency is to get people back to work sooner, and the opiates are an impediment to that,” said bureau spokesman Bill Teets.

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