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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) announced the implementation of new opioid controls to protect injured federal workers. The new controls aim to reduce the risk of long-term opioid use. The Department is committed to reducing the potential of opioid misuse among injured federal workers receiving benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).

The new controls impose a 7-day limit on the initial fill of an opioid prescription. The limit follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and is consistent with restrictions now in place in states across the country. Day-supply limits on initial opioid prescriptions have been a widely used strategy to reduce the chances of unintended chronic opioid use. A limit on additional opioid prescriptions, however, is less common. The Department has taken the additional step to limit the number of subsequent opioid prescriptions.

The new policy allows filling three subsequent 7-day opioid prescriptions for a maximum of 28-days, but requires prior Departmental approval for any prescription beyond this period. To obtain the approval, the prescribing provider must complete a detailed evaluation of the injured worker and certify the medical need for additional opioids. The Department’s FECA Medical Benefits Examiners will review these evaluations.

These new controls are a part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to reduce the potential for opioid misuse and addiction among injured federal workers. The Department created the Opioid Action Plan in response to the President’s initiative in combating the opioid epidemic. The plan centers on four areas: effective controls, tailored treatment, impactful communications and aggressive fraud detection.

The President’s focus on the nation’s opioid crisis has shown some promising results. Among injured federal workers, the Department’s latest data shows 34% decline in overall opioid use, 25% decline in new opioid prescriptions, 54% decline in new opioid prescriptions lasting more than 30 days, 71% drop in claimants with a morphine equivalent dose (MED) of 500 or more, and a 43% drop in users with an MED of 90 or more. These efforts to protect the federal workforce will continue.

OWCP provides wage replacement benefits, medical benefits, vocational rehabilitation and other benefits to federal workers who sustain a work-related injury or occupational disease. The workers’ compensation healthcare costs for injured federal workers have averaged nearly $1 billion annually over the past several years.