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Opioid Weaning Plans Offer Opportunity to Help Claimants, Reduce Costs

Over the past few years, there has been a persistent opioid over-prescription problem leading to addiction, harm to patients, and out-of-control costs. Although the Workers' Compensation Board issued Medical Treatment Guidelines in December 2010, guidelines addressing non-acute pain were not implemented until December 2014. Renée Heitger of our Buffalo office has given a number of presentations concerning the Medical Treatment Guidelines advising that employers and carriers should argue for opioid medication to be weaned in the absence of improved pain and function. After all, the thrust of the Medical Treatment Guidelines is treatments that are not working should be discontinued in favor of new treatment modalities better able to restore the claimant's function.

We are pleased to report that the Board is finally issuing decisions consistent with our argument. Recent decisions show the Board will implement weaning plans and discontinue medications not generally recommended for chronic use. This will benefit employers and carriers by reducing costs and allowing Section 32 settlement agreements to move forward that otherwise would have been cost-prohibitive. The Board's new position on these cases will also benefit claimants as they will be assisted in a healthy transition from harmful opioid medication to less expensive treatment modalities that will be of greater efficacy.

Related Materials:

Strategies for Weaning and Outcomes at the Board
IIMAK Decision

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