Lyrica – High Claim Cost Doesn’t Necessarily Mean High Dollar MSAs

January 13, 2016

opioid guidelines

Lyrica is one of the most widely prescribed ‘pain’ medications in the workers’ system. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive. Add to that the fact that it is typically prescribed ‘off label’ for injured workers, and you’ve got a recipe for high claim cost.  But will this high dollar monthly drug spend translate to a high dollar MSA?

Lyrica’s 2016 price increase

Lyrica is among more than 100 drugs that saw price increases as of Jan. 1, 2016. Drug maker Pfizer said the company had raised the price by a whopping 9.4 percent this year. That follows the 20.5 percent increase in its average wholesale price just two years ago. With patent protection firmly in place, a generic version is not expected for at least two years.

While workers’ compensation stakeholders seek medical treatments that result in the best outcomes for injured workers, and off label drug use is common in both workers’ comp and group health, starting with an off-label medication is unnecessary. First-line therapy should be those medications that are FDA-approved for the patient’s condition.

Lyrica’s off label use

Lyrica is FDA approved for only a limited number of conditions, not chronic pain in general. The Food and Drug Administration has indicated the drug for pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, partial onset seizures, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain associated with spinal cord injury.

If you have a claimant on Lyrica who does not have any of the above conditions, Medicare WILL NOT cover it — meaning that while you, the payer, may foot the bill as part of your monthly claim spend, Lyrica would NOT be included in the Medicare Set Aside should you move toward settlement. Many medical providers, as well as insurance carriers, are unaware that the medication is not covered by Medicare for off-label uses.

Tower MSA recently saved a client $179,000 after confirming Lyrica was being prescribed off-label and, therefore, should not be included in the MSA. That’s just one example of a high dollar claim cost that did not translate to a high dollar MSA projection.

What to do

Lyrica is just one of the many medications prescribed off-label in the workers’ compensation system. There are many others, like Lidoderm patches, Terocin cream, ACTIQ, Abilify…. all  extremely expensive drugs that are not decreasing in price anytime soon.

If you’re unsure as to whether a drug is being prescribed off label, contact Tower and ask the question.  If you’re considering settlement, you might also consider Tower’s Pre-MSA Triage.  This service identifies unnecessary/inappropriate treatment and recommends claim specific intervention strategies to optimize claim cost before the MSA.

Whether a recommended intervention involves clarification that a medication is being prescribed for an off label use,  contact with the treating physician to obtain discontinuation of medications not intended for long term use, or a complete physician peer review with peer to peer collegial dialogue, Tower’s MSP Automation Suite drives the process, tracking progress through completion. As a result, payers can better manage treatment and proactively lower their costs before discussions of the MSA ensue.


Never underestimate the value of a good doctor in optimizing claim outcomes.  Payers should identify good physicians through data analytical resources and tools, and not settle for mediocrity.   Next, work with your PBM to established and enforce pharmacy guidelines when authorizing treatment.  Finally,  be proactive in utilizing state jurisdictional options to avoid inappropriate treatment.

Optimal care, cost and compliance can be achieved.