Monday, June 26, 2017

OPIOID DENIALS AND OBSTRUCTION OF ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS


"Doctor's Duty to Ease Pain at Issue in Calif. Lawsuit" was headline news for The Washington Post on 7 May 2001. The story was about how a patient died in pain at age 85 after his  doctor reportedly "discharged him from the hospital with what (his daughter) said was inadequate pain medication."  

Meanwhile, HEADACHE, Vol. 11, #2, summer 2000, in a series entitled "Controversies in Headache Medicine," published a column on "Long-Acting Opioids as Preventive Medicine for Severe Headaches." The report recognized the risks of opioid medication but opined nonetheless that "when they are not overused, the opioids are safe medication" and that "the doses must be kept low" since "occasionally, the body develops tolerance to the narcotic and the patient needs increasing doses to achieve the same result." The HEADACHE article discussed methods of management. 

Pain management physicians understand these complications while also facing the needs of patients who suffer from chronic pain. That is why physicians try alternative methods to achieve pain relief, for instance, physical therapy, aqua therapy, and other methods not dependent on medications (these alternative methods are felt to induce secretion of endogenous substances that enhance pain relief). The trouble is that injured workers offered treatment under these techniques are likely to have these recommendations denied or delayed by Utilization Review (UR) and Independent Medical Review (IMR). DWC is ultimately responsible for care to injured workers and for the frequent denials and inadequate authorizations of treatment by UR and IMR. These denials then help throw these patients into opioid regimens because alternative treatment has been denied. The usual ruse is to call these treatments "experimental" or "unproved." 

That's when the primary treating physicians (PTPs)  and their consultants inherit the blame. Now that the political winds are against opioid use and physicians try to avoid their use, the ultimate sufferer is the injured worker and chronic pain patient. There is no winner in this sad game. 

References

HEADACHE, V. 11, #2, Summer, 2000, by Lawrence Robbins, MD ("Long-acting opioids as preventive medicine for severe headaches") 

The Washington Post, May 7, 2001, by Susan Okie ("Doctor's duty to ease pain at issue in Calif. lawsuit")

Workcompcentral, 2016-07-26, by Robert Weinmann, MD ("SB 863 benefits employers, harms injured workers")

Workcompcentral, 2017-01-04, by Robert Weinmann, MD ("Malpractice reform reaches California Supreme Court") 

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