The Impact of Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose Threshold Guidelines on Prescribed Dose in a Workers' Compensation Population

Published in: Medical Care (December 2019). doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001269

Posted on on January 31, 2020

by Sara E. Heins, Renan Castillo

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Prescription opioid overdose has increased markedly and is of great concern among injured workers receiving workers' compensation insurance. Given the association between high daily dose of prescription opioids and negative health outcomes, state workers' compensation boards have disseminated Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose (MEDD) guidelines to discourage high-dose opioid prescribing.


To evaluate the impact of MEDD guidelines among workers' compensation claimants on prescribed opioid dose.


Workers' compensation claims data, 2010–2013 from 2 guideline states and 3 control states were utilized. The study design was an interrupted time series with comparison states and average monthly MEDD was the primary outcome. Policy variables were specified to allow for both instantaneous and gradual effects and additional stratified analyses examined evaluated the policies separately for individuals with and without acute pain, cancer, and high-dose baseline use to determine whether policies were being targeted as intended.


After adjusting for covariates, state fixed-effects, and time trends, policy implementation was associated with a 9.26mg decrease in MEDD (95% confidence interval, –13.96 to –4.56). Decreases in MEDD also became more pronounced over time and were larger in groups targeted by the policies.


Passage of workers' compensation MEDD guidelines was associated with decreases in prescribed opioid dose among injured workers. Disseminating MEDD guidelines to doctors who treat workers' compensation cases may address an important risk factor for opioid-related mortality, while still allowing for autonomy in practice. Further research is needed to determine whether MEDD policies influence prescribing behavior and patient outcomes in other populations.

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