The High Price of Pain: Healthentic Analysis Reveals the Impact of Nationwide Opiate Epidemic

Updated on January 22, 2022

Astonishing 13 Percent Of Opioid Prescriptions Raise Cause For Concern; Employers Paying $25 Billion Per Year For Misuse

Healthentic, an analytics company that helps employers easily identify health savings, released an analysis today showcasing the high cost of opiate misuse. Healthentic reviewed four years (2011-2014) of population data from its database, and identified the groups with the highest risk for prescription painkiller abuse.

Healthentic’s data shows 13 percent of opiate users are at-risk for chronic use, and account for 92 percent of an employer’s overall opiate health care costs. Seven percent of people who have been prescribed an opioid in the past four years have two or more causes for concern with chronic use. The causes for concern are: 10 or more opioid prescriptions, or a prescribed supply for 120 days or more, or a week or more of overlapping opioid or benzodiazepine prescriptions.

Prescription drug abuse has been declared a nationwide epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Americans are more pessimistic about combating prescription drug abuse than both alcohol and illicit drugs, with 37 percent of Americans saying the country is losing the battle against prescription drug abuse, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Opioid misuse costs employers in multiple ways including more medical costs and productivity loss,” said Jeff O’Mara, CEO Healthentic. “Employers have a unique opportunity to help people get more productivity for less money by identifying and engaging the people at risk.”

The CDC says that from 1999-2013, opiates were responsible for more than three times the U.S. death toll from The Vietnam War. Pharmaceutical drug overdose is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and when counted with total drug overdoses kills more people annually than car crashes or firearms. While traffic accidents are on the decline, the number of opiate deaths is rising quickly.[if !supportFootnotes][1][endif]

“Deaths from drug overdoses have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. This growth in drug overdose deaths consists, in large part, of a quadrupling in the number of deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers,” said Debra Houry, Director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, in a testimony before the House Committee discussing the opioid abuse epidemic.

In 2012 alone, roughly 259 million pain medication prescriptions were written – enough for every adult in America to have a bottle of pills, said Houry.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opiate poisonings increased by 91.2 percent from 1999-2002, while heroin poisonings increased by 12.4 percent. Opioids are now responsible for more drug overdoses than any other drug, and the cause of three in every four pharmaceutical overdoses.

On average, opiate misuse kills nearly 50 people every day and costs the U.S. economy $55.7 billion annually. Nearly half of that total cost comes from employers, who pay more than $25.6 billion each year – and upwards of $10 billion are from lost work and productivity alone.[if !supportFootnotes][2][endif]

“Our hope is this analysis provides further insight into the societal and financial issue of prescription painkillers, and helps employers take strides in alleviating the problem to ensure the well-being of their people,” said O’Mara.

What employers can do

While much of the responsibility falls on the healthcare system and individuals, there are some actions employers can take to help control the problem, including:

  • Insist on conservative prescribing guidelines for participating providers in all health programs
  • Know who is at risk (the 7 to 13 percent of those receiving opioid prescriptions) in your company’s specific population (using HIPAA-compliant technology) and target outreach to those individual
  • Educate employees about the risks of opioid drug use to prevent misuse
  • Educate employees about proper disposal of unused medications
  • Increase and ensure confidential access to treatment

To see the full Healthentic analysis on opioid misuse, click here.

About Healthentic

Healthentic, an innovative analytics platform, is the easiest way to measure population health. Healthentic’s Population Health Dashboard (PhD) gives businesses critical insights using the power of whole health informatics to make changes to their plans and programs in order to lower costs while improving overall employee health and productivity. Healthentic works with more than 10,800 enterprises, and covers more than 38.7 million lives. To learn more, visit

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.