Opioid Weaning Plans Offer Opportunity to Help Claimants, Reduce Costs
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.