WSIB prescribes narcotics strategy, restricts OxyContin for injured workers

WSIB prescribes narcotics strategy, restricts OxyContin for injured workers
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has replaced OxyContin with OxyNeo as one of the drugs that can be prescribed for workers who are injured on the job.

Prior to making this change, the WSIB's Drug Advisory Committee reviewed available data on OxyNeo and noted that it has the same active ingredient as OxyContin and is similar in efficacy and adverse effects.
“The WSIB wants to make sure workers are getting the best medical care and providing coverage for OxyNeo as a replacement for OxyContin is an important part of helping workers recover while reducing the risk of addiction or other complications," says WSIB Vice President of Health Services Dr. Donna Bain.

The WSIB is working with the medical, pharmacy and worker communities to assist workers in this transition. Workers are advised to visit their physician to obtain a new prescription for OxyNeo as new supplies of OxyContin are no longer being manufactured.

The WSIB recognized the dangers of long-acting narcotics like OxyContin more than three years ago and took action to help prevent inappropriate narcotic use. The WSIB’s Narcotics Strategy limits the use of these drugs in the first weeks following an injury. '

“We recognize that long-acting narcotics are necessary for some workers,” says Bain. “We will continue to closely monitor the use of OxyNeo and other narcotics used as part of a worker’s treatment and recovery.”

The WSIB has also partnered with specialty clinics like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to provide help for workers who do become addicted to narcotics. “Our goal is appropriate pain management,” says Bain. “When used appropriately, narcotics should improve a worker's function and quality of life, and support a safe and sustained return to work.”

The prescription drug OxyContin has been in the news in recent months as more evidence show an increasing number of patients are getting addicted to this prescription medication. According to information from CAMH's web site, OxyContin contains oxycodone, which is an opioid drug, like morphine, codeine, heroin and methadone.

In an interview with COS, WSIB chair Steve Mahoney said preventing addiction to prescription pain killers, like OxyContin, is part of the compensation board's strategy to get injured workers back to work effectively and safely.

"We said to workers that if you are on an opiate…we will continue to fund it until we can get you off of that drug and back into a state of health," Mahoney explained. "But for new workers injured coming in, we are not going to automatically approve an opiate like OxyContin just because the doctor said so. It's too easy for a doctor to just simply write a prescription for pain."

According to the WSIB, its narcotics strategy helped bring down the agency's total health care cost by $33 million from 2010 to 2011.

For background on the WSIB’s approach, read its Narcotics Strategy for injured workers posted on the WSIB web site.