Recently, we have seen an increase in complaints against healthcare workers for the use of chronic pain medication.
In one instance, we represented a doctor from a hospital in up state Pennsylvania who was accused of being impaired on the job. The doctor had been prescribed 90 mg. per day of oxycontin. As a result of the complaint from several patients, the doctor's staff privileges were suspended by the hospital. We have appealed the suspension with the hospital; however, this may now result in the doctor having to disclose this information on his medical license renewal application.
We referred the doctor to a pain management specialist who is tapering the doctor off the oxycontin and prescribing alternative pain medication.
The healthcare worker must exercise extreme caution when taking opiate medication and working. The American Academy of Neurology has released a position paper on opiate use for chronic non-cancer pain, which concludes that "there is no substantial evidence of pain relief or improved function over long period of time without incurring serious risk of overdose, dependence or addiction".
A copy of that paper, titled Opiates for Chronic Noncancer Pain is attached.
If you are reported to a licensing board for being impaired on the job and you are on opiate medication, the licensing agency may request that you attend an in-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in order to be weaned off of the opiate.
If you are accused of being impaired on the job, it is important that you consult a healthcare licensing attorney before making any statements. If you are on pain medication, it may be appropriate for you to be evaluated by a pain management specialist. We will assist in this process and advise you as to what precautions must be taken in order to preserve your ability to practice the profession.