For individuals who get hurt on the job, dealing with the pain is often one of the most challenging aspects of the recovery process. Opioid medications can provide much-needed relief; but, due to the nationwide opioid epidemic – which has hit portions of Virginia particularly hard – many injured workers are finding it difficult to obtain prescriptions for the medications they so desperately need.
Focusing on Prosecuting Health Care Providers
In fact, with the U.S. Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies focusing much of their efforts on prosecuting health care providers, some pain management doctors have chosen to stop prescribing opioid medications entirely. Even among those who are still prescribing opioids in Virginia, when a patient violates his or her pain management contract by abusing his or her prescription, the “solution” is often to force the patient to go cold turkey out of fear that the doctor will be charged with providing opioids to a drug-dependent patient.
Virginia’s current Regulations Governing Prescribing of Opioids and Buprenorphine are incredibly restrictive—they control when, why, and in what quantities healthcare providers can prescribe opioids for pain management. Combined with drug laws at the state and federal levels, they make it next to impossible for doctors and patients alike to consistently remain on the right side of the law.
We Need Smarter Opioid Laws and Regulations to Protect Injured Workers in Virginia
While opioid medications can be dangerous, they can also be incredibly effective. As a result, doctors should have the professional autonomy to decide when an opioid prescription is in a patient’s best interest and injured workers should have the ability to make their own decisions about when they want to try opioid pain medications under medical supervision.
To this end, Virginia needs a revised set of opioid laws and regulations that:
- Ensure injured workers have access to alternatives that are at least as effective as opioids before they are denied prescriptions for narcotic pain medications;
- Allow doctors to focus on the quality of patient care rather than limiting their number of opioid prescriptions in order to avoid garnering attention from state and federal law enforcement agencies;
- Enhance protections for the doctor-patient relationship and prevent government intrusions that affect doctors’ decisions regarding pain management treatment options;
- Provide clear, objective, and efficient procedures for doctors and patients to seek exceptions in circumstances in which denying access to opioid pain medications would otherwise be justified; and,
- Ensure that injured workers have access to evaluation and treatment when the need arises, and ensure that doctors are protected when they choose to treat injured workers who are exhibiting symptoms of drug dependency.
Furthermore, injured workers who currently have opioid prescriptions pursuant to existing pain management contracts should have the right to continue their course of treatment (if desired) even if changes in Virginia’s laws and regulations would otherwise require the consideration of treatment alternatives.
Ultimately, doctors need to be able to provide injured workers with the information and treatment options necessary for these workers to make their own informed decisions. The fear of prosecution should not dictate treatment options or patient outcomes. Whether or not this was the intended result of the current legal regime, it is the practical effect, and innocent injured workers are paying far too great a price for concerns that are far beyond their control.
Injured Workers Law Firm | Attorneys for Workers’ Compensation Claims in Richmond, VA
The attorneys at the Injured Workers Law Firm represent employees in the Richmond, VA area and statewide in claims for worker’s compensation benefits. With offices in Richmond and Fairfax, you can rest assured that our lawyers are there for you. If you have been injured at work, if you have been denied access to opioid pain medications, or if you have any questions about your legal rights, we invite you to contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.