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A plan by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to phase out coverage for Oxycontin and its generic form by the end of the year began Saturday.

Given their potential for abuse, misuse, addiction, and dependence, BWC will no longer pay for Oxycontin or generic sustained-release oxycodone tablets for workers who suffer on-the-job injuries on or after June 1. Injured workers currently on those medications will have until Dec. 31 to discontinue their use or switch to a different product on the agency’s formulary.

“We are encouraging injured workers to discuss with their physicians other effective painkillers on our formulary and to explore non-medication treatment options for chronic pain,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Our priority remains the health and safety of our injured workers, which can be more challenging when an addiction enters the mix.”

McCloud added that workers who want to discontinue opioid use altogether should talk to their physician or BWC-contracted managed care organization. BWC will reimburse for certain services.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine lauded the agency’s new rule.

We want to prevent addiction, and I believe that this change will make an impact on Ohio’s opioid epidemic by promoting the safest possible treatments for injured workers with painful conditions,” said Governor DeWine.

The rule does not apply to immediate-release oxycodone, a medication used for acute pain.

Approved by BWC’s board of directors in February, the rule follows a thorough study over the last year by BWC’s pharmacy and therapeutics committee, which is comprised of physicians and pharmacists in the workers’ compensation system. It also follows a series of actions in recent years to mitigate the opioid epidemic’s impact on Ohio’s workforce.

The agency’s 2016 Opioid Rule, for instance, requires physicians follow specific best practices when prescribing opioids to injured workers.