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New Rules are in Place for Limiting Injured Workers Access to Addictive Opioids

February 19, 2018

North Carolina Rules for Limiting Injured Workers Access to Addictive Opioids

For decades, higher doses of opioid painkillers have been prescribed, causing North Carolina to experience an opioid epidemic. According to NC Health and Human Services, more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid-related overdoses from 1999 to 2016. Not only is it a major devastation to families and the community, but it’s also overwhelming medical providers and hurting prevention and treatment methods.

In the world of workers’ compensation, employers are also facing this issue head-on when it comes to injured employees using prescription opioid painkillers as part of their treatments. A study found that more than 800 people on workers’ compensation died of an overdose over a four-year time frame. As a result, the North Carolina Industrial Commission has proposed new rules that aid in decreasing addiction and overdoses with injured workers. These rules would limit injured workers to take the lowest, while still effective dosages, or for no more than 30 days at a time if they’re being treated for chronic pain. Employees would also be required to take urine tests if they’re using prescribed opioids for more than 35 to 37 days at a time. Their health care providers would also have to determine if employees taking opioids for a longer period are at risk of overdose or other opioid-related health complications. Another rule is for health care providers to suggest prescribing other drugs that reverse the effects of overdosing in case of risk. Finally, health care providers would also be encouraged to prescribe other forms of treatment such as physical therapy, acupuncture, and other pain treatment to decrease opioid use.

If these new rules pass, they’ll be more consistent with recent state laws that more closely regulate prescribing painkillers, known as the STOP Act. The proposed rules must first be approved by the Rules Review Commission before the NC Industrial Commission can implement them. The first hearing is planned for March 2nd and the Rules Review Commission is accepting written comments about the matter until March 19th. May 1st is the earliest date that the new rules could go into effect.

The opioid epidemic in North Carolina has been an ongoing, complicated problem with no easy solution. We at Prior, Criner & Edwards Attorneys look forward to the hearing in March and hope that the Rules Review Commission approves these latest proposed rules. Until then, we’ll continue to aid those seeking workers’ compensation for their injuries and get the medical treatment they’re promised. Contact us if you have any questions, we’re here to help!