Alabama Workers Comp Blawg

Fish Nelson :: Attorneys at Law

Monday, December 30, 2013

Alabama Enacts New Pain Management Laws

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that Alabama was among the top twenty (20) states nationally in number of drug overdose deaths each year. In an effort to combat this problem, the Alabama legislature recently passed several new laws to regulate pain management clinics and impose stiffer penalties upon persons who doctor shop to illegally obtain prescription pain killers.

The Alabama Pain Management Act requires that all physicians who provide pain management services must now register with the Board of Medical Examiners by January 1, 2014. The Act defines pain management services as those medical services that involve the prescription of controlled substances in order to treat chronic non-malignant pain. The registration requirement pertains to any physician or clinic that advertises or holds themselves out to be a provider of pain management services. Additionally, the Act requires that all pain management clinics appoint a medical director, who must have an unrestricted Alabama Medical License and must meet certain training criteria. Each clinic’s medical director must also register with the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Another related new law provides that physicians can now allow their staff members to access the Prescription Drug Database to verify patients’ prescription history. Previously, only licensed physicians could access the database. The new law also allows Medicaid to access the database to check the controlled substance prescription history of patients who are enrolled in Medicaid. 

Finally, another new law provides for stiffer penalties for those convicted of doctor shopping. The law provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to deceptively obtain a controlled substance from a physician by intentionally and knowingly withholding information from the physician that the person has obtained a prescription for the same controlled substance or another controlled substance of similar use from a different physician. Under the new law, doctor shopping is a Class A Misdemeanor upon the first offense, and a Class C Felony after four convictions.

My Two Cents:

It remains to be seen what, if any, impact these new laws will have on employers and injured employees involved in workers’ compensation claims. The new laws should make it easier for doctors to identify claimants who are doctor shopping, diverting, or abusing drugs. However, it is also forseeable that the new requirement that pain clinics appoint a medical director may effectively close the doors of the smaller pain clinics, thus decreasing the number of options available. In any event, hopefully the new laws will help carry out their intended effect of decreasing the ever-growing prescription drug abuse problem in the state.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article was written by Charley M. Drummond, Esq. of Fish Nelson, LLC. Fish Nelson is a law firm located in Birmingham, Alabama dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers, and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation cases and related liability matters. Drummond and his firm are members of The National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). The NWCDN is a national and Canadian network of reputable law firms organized to provide employers and insurers access to the highest quality representation in workers’ compensation and related employer liability fields. If you have questions about this article or Alabama workers’ compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at cdrummond@fishnelson.com or (205) 332-3414.

Comments

1. Bigdreams7 said...

As a chronic pain patient in AL, we cannot afford to lose a single doctor, let alone a clinic of physicians willing to treat patients for chronic pain conditions today. The DEA is tyrannical when it comes to its fear mongering and harassment of the precious few pain management doctors we have here. Therefore in my opinion, and with it I know I am not alone, is that ANY added regulations by the state (or any governing body) is absolutely unnecessary, unhelpful in stopping the abuse of the medications needed by true pain patients, and too costly to the pain patients that need medication to survive. It also further threatens the practices and careers of honorable doctors who help those patients they see who have true chronic pain. Whatever damage may have resulted from people who knowingly abuse the medicines required by patients for pain control is miniscule in comparison to the loss of quality of life, or even the very lives, of the pain patients who are unable to find medical treatment due to the rarity of physicians willing to provide them with necessary prescription medicine.
This is a witch hunt in an area of medicine that is already besieged upon by government rules, regulations, and agencies, and is pushed to the point of being on the brink of extinction.

2. Mike Fish said...

Thank you for your comments. There are certainly situations where the use of narcotic medications are necessary. That being said, there would not be a national movement towards getting control over the overuse of opioids in workers' compensation if there was not a problem. Further controls should not have an adverse affect on the good doctors or their patients.

3. shirley cummings said...

I have a very bad neck and back,with pinched nerves in both,i have been told I cannot have surgery,so the only thing that helps me live with my pain, is pain meds.I live in Anniston and have to drive to B'Ham which is almost unbearable,but none of the Doctors up here will not or can not treat me,and when I do get my prescription,i have trouble filling it.These new law don't hurt the drug addict,but they truly hurt those that are in terrible pain.I truly think these law makers want to destroy us,for how many will commit sucide,because they can't live with the pain.

4. Mike Fish said...

Thank you for your comment. We will have to agree to disagree. Every study that has been done concerning opioid usage in the last 10 years concludes that it has become a national epidemic. Every year, there are at least 20,000 overdose deaths due to prescription drugs and there are more opioid-related deaths than those involving heroin and cocaine combined. It is a problem that needs to be addressed and any laws that help tighten the reigns is a welcome one in my book.

5. Pain care advocate said...

Considering that more 100 million people in the US suffer with chronic pain of daily basis? Legitimate pain patients should not have suffer from over zealous actions of the state or the DEA. I have seen what is happening in the state Florida and this has gone so far overboard that it's rediculous. Doesn't anyone realize that the US population has grown severely in the past few years? That Baby boomers are now aging and sorry but many of them have pain diseases states that require medications to allow them some quality of life.
Legitimate pain patients are suffering severely these days. Is this compassion to aging? 50 and over? Now I own property in the NE AL area and I had planned to retire there. My senior mother and I middle aged both of us with legitimate chronic pain conditions are going to need to continue our care there, somewhere and driving hours to see and pain doctor when your already a pain patient, is cruel! Many aren't able to sit in a car for hours on end. We will be tax paying citizens, plan to spend our money in that state and if we can't get our pain care there? The home we purchased will have to be sold and our dreams of mountain living will gone forever. There is a small town there in DeKalb that would very convienent for us but aren't any pain doctors there. We know we're going to drive some but going to B'ham is extremely far!!. Doesn't the state want that area to draw more people and bring their money? Doesn't NE AL want to gain residents to increase revenue? Or are they going to be ignorant and keep the area so far behind the times that no one will ever want to move there. It's a humane way to treat human beings that are aging and needs medicine to function and to have any quality of life and are denied that. I hope to hear more positive news about AL and the NE section be willing to accept more residents. Not turn them away over health issues.

6. JANICE WALKER said...

I have watched my brother over the last 15 years begin opioid use leading to addiction in a very short while then an increase in RX Lortab to compensate for tolerance to drug. Sure the doctor "follows guidelines" to cover himself. Now my brother is dead because doctor would not talk to or listen to family's input on my brother's inability to self-monitor drug use. DEAD because of taking too many prescribed barbituates & opium. This could have been avoided.

7. smc said...

Is it required by law that a pt prescribed narcotics also have physical therapy as part of their treatment plan?

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