Occupational Health & Safety

Washington L&I Tightening Opioid Prescribing for Injured Workers

"We're seeing fewer deaths among injured workers due to pain medication. The new rules are the next step in reducing ineffective and dangerous use of these powerful drugs," said Dr. Gary Franklin, the state department's medical director.

The Washington state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is holding a public hearing April 23 on its proposed new rules for prescribing opioids to treat the pain of injured workers. The rules would require doctors who prescribe opioids for injured workers for more than six weeks to use best practices that include monitoring whether workers are recovering their ability to perform normal activities.

L&I indicated the change is intended to improve the safety and effectiveness of treatment for pain among injured workers in the state but also noted opioid-related deaths in the United States have exceeded accidental deaths due to motor vehicles and firearms since 2007. Washington has had one of the highest rates of prescription opioid-related deaths among the states.

"Our goal is to provide high-quality care and keep injured workers safe while they are recovering," said Dr. Gary Franklin, L&I's medical director. "We're making progress. We're seeing fewer deaths among injured workers due to pain medication. The new rules are the next step in reducing ineffective and dangerous use of these powerful drugs."

L&I coverage can continue after six weeks when doctors use best practices listed in the rules. The new requirements will not apply to the treatment of acute pain following surgery, within six weeks of injury, or to prescriptions for workers being treated for catastrophic injuries.

The hearing will take place in Tukwila. Written comments may be sent by mail to Jami Lifka, Department of Labor & Industries, PO Box 44321, Olympia, WA 98504-4321; by e-mail to Jami.Lifka@Lni.wa.gov; or by fax to 360-902-6315. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. April 23.

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