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Bill Creating Clear Guidelines in Dispensing of Opioid Medications Introduced in New Jersey Senate

By on October 1, 2013 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Opioid medications have become a major problem in the New Jersey workers’ compensation system.  The number of workers being prescribed opioids has increased dramatically along with other attendant problems, such as addictions to the medications, excessive periods of use, and large numbers of unused opioid pills due to over-prescribing.  Every workers’ compensation professional can attest to these and other problems with opioid medications, not to mention cases where urine testing shows no trace of opioids in the system despite repeated renewals of opioid prescriptions.

On September 30, 2013, Senator Raymond Lesniak and Senator Stephen Sweeney introduced a bill in the New Jersey Senate proposing that medical expenses shall not include coverage of opioid drugs unless the prescribing doctor does the following:

1) takes a thorough medical history and physical examination focusing on the cause of the patient’s pain;

2) does a complete assessment of the potential addiction of the patient to opioids, which would include a baseline urine test and assessment of past and current depression, anxiety disorders and other mood disorders associated with risk of opioid abuse;

3) provides a written treatment plan with measurable objectives, a list of all medications being taken and dosages, a justification for the continued use of opioid medications, a description of the pain relief from the medications, documentation of attempts at weaning, a description of how the patient responds to the medication, and alternative treatments under consideration;

4) provides a description of either sustained improvement in function and pain reduction or consultation with a pain management specialist (if the dosage exceeds 120 mg morphine-equivalent dose or if the duration of treatment exceeds 14 days);

5) provides an explanation to the patient of the risks and benefits of the prescribed medications and expected duration of treatment.

The Act will allow an employer, carrier or TPA to disqualify any physician from its network who fails to provide such documentation.  If approved, this bill would be a major step forward for the New Jersey workers’ compensation system.  New Jersey is a member of the National Prescription Drug Monitoring program, which allows physicians to check on an electronic database for prior or current prescriptions for controlled substances before dispensing narcotic pain medication to a patient.

The PDMP program along with this proposed bill would go a long way to curb the abuse of opioid medications in workers’ compensation, often among patients who have a history of problems with opioids and other controlled substances.  The bill simply establishes a list of best practices that physicians would need to follow in order to prescribe opioids in the workers’ compensation system, as well as in personal injury protection coverage in automobile insurance. It would not prevent the dispensing of medications to those with chronic or short term pain; it would simply require the physician to undergo careful written analysis before making the decision to prescribe opioid drugs.  Many pain management doctors already engage in these practices and require their patients to sign pain management contracts allowing for urine testing.  However, not all physicians who prescribe opioid medications follow these practices, and this bill is aimed squarely at those physicians

The undersigned will keep readers current on the status of this bill.   The bill is number Senate, No. 3003.

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This blog article was researched and written by John H. Geaney, a member of the executive committee and equity partner at the law firm of Capehart Scatchard. The content of the this article is intended to provide general information on the topic presented, and is offered with the understanding that the author is not rendering any legal or professional services or advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require such services, retain competent legal counsel.

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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