From the Tribune - Berg: A pill bill could help save lives

From the Tribune: More Illinoisans die from an opioid overdose than from the barrel of a gun. But imagine the public outcry if a state-run program was passing out weaponry to civilians.

Enter Illinois' workers' compensation system, which contains a little-known loophole that puts injured workers at risk of drug addiction and overdose. Doctors treating injured workers in Illinois through the workers' comp system can sell the drugs they prescribe directly out of their office. And that comes with life-threatening consequences.

A study from Johns Hopkins researchers reveals that when physicians are allowed to do this, they prescribe more than three times the quantity of opioid drugs they would prescribe otherwise. And workers are off the job for 85 percent longer.

Perhaps even more concerning, those researchers couldn't find a single legitimate medical reason why this is happening in Illinois. They concluded that financial incentives were the likely culprit. We'll get back to that in a minute...

...Thankfully, House Bill 2892 offers a way forward. This bill, filed by state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, would ban physician dispensing within the workers' comp system while allowing limited exceptions for areas without access to a nearby pharmacy.

It's a reform that addresses a major worker health issue, not to mention saves on workers' comp insurance costs for Illinois businesses trying to keep afloat. How often does such a simple fix pop up in Springfield?

Opioid addiction isn't a partisan issue. Lawmakers should act to address the state's role in promoting it as soon as possible.

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