opioids and workers compensation


    We have seen in our experience as Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers, the attacks injured workers in PA can expect from insurance companies on medication.  Litigation is a poor process to bring about changes in medication regimens; nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently developed and published guidelines for physicians regarding the prescription of opioid medications.  

    The new guidelines from the CDC will almost certainly play a role in how judges view opioid pain medication usage by injured workers within the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system.

    Pain Management Options Available to Injured Workers

    If you were previously prescribed opioid medications to reduce the pain caused by a work injury talk to your physician to discuss a plan for reducing the medication and your options.

    Physical therapy is one option for injured workers seeking to reduce chronic pain. The American Physical Therapy Association provides some guidance for how physical therapy may help pain:

    • It provides exercise specific to individualized goals and needs that may reduce pain
    • It provides manual therapy that tends to reduce pain and improve movement
    • It provides education about your pain that can help you understand your pain history and set realistic goals for your treatment
    • It fosters teamwork that allows a therapist to be directly involved with your pain and adjust treatment accordingly.

    Reducing Opioid Medications After a Work Injury

    Opioids are a class of drugs that have been used over many years to treat moderate and severe pain in patients. Some opioid medications are synthetically-produced, while others are made from the opium poppy plant. In recent years, this class of drug has attracted national headlines because of its addictive nature and the abuse of this substance.

    How to Reduce Opioid Use After Worker Injury

    Opioids are a concern for insurance companies since this class of drugs can result in addiction and more claims. Workers who use opioids have response times similar to workers who are drinking, making them more prone to falls from heights and work injuries. Healthcare providers do offer prescriptions of these drugs for longer than the three days suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well, making addiction more likely.

    In 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf spoke directly about reducing the over-prescription of opioids for those who are in the workers’ compensation program. The National Safety Council has also expressed concerns about the use of opioid prescriptions in workers’ compensation cases. The organization concluded that after some time, use of this class of drugs can actually delay recovery and can cause the risk of opioid dependence to workers’ compensation benefit recipients.

    Preventing Opioid Abuse in Pennsylvania

    In 2018, Rep. Ryan Mackenzie and Rep. Rob Kauffman, House Labor and Industry Chairman, announced the introduction of House Bill 18 and Senate Bill 936 to specifically address over-prescription of the drug in Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system. Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf further promised to create prescription guidelines for opioids by working with a Safe and Effective Prescribing Task Force and to offer training for workers’ compensation judges and providers in the state to help combat excessive opioid prescriptions to injured workers. 

    The governor and his administration also announced plans to review opioid prescriptions in the State Workers’ Insurance Fund and to support Senate Bills 655 and 472. Senate Bill 655 seeks regulation action for prescribing guidelines across Pennsylvania, while Senate Bill 472 would require opioid prescriptions to be a maximum of seven days in most cases.

    In addition to these efforts, the governor and administration also have a number of initiatives in place, including a program that gives the workers’ compensations system access to PDMP (Pennsylvania Department of Health Prescription Drug Monitoring Program) data. The current system allows providers who show signs of over-prescribing opioids to be reported to the Department of State for investigation. The state’s law also allows employers to get a 5% discount on workers’ compensation premiums in exchange for taking part in and being certified by the PA Certified Workplace Safety Committee Program, which includes training about substance abuse prevention.

    Contact My Comp Lawyers

    If you have been injured in the workplace and are having trouble getting your rightful benefits on time, contact us online for a free consultation or call us at 717-400-1000 to help you get the compensation you deserve. The team at My Comp Lawyers are certified workers’ compensation experts, and we offer every client personalized attention to ensure results.

     For questions about the compensation you could be entitled to from a work injury contact us, we offer free consultations and free case management. 

    Have Your Questions Answered Today

    Updated: August 24, 2018


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