To support workers and their physicians by providing access to medication when needed, and education and alternatives for pain management to keep workers safe and to support their recovery and return to work.
The decision maker works collaboratively with the worker, employer and medical professional(s) to compile the necessary information and develop the worker’s treatment plan and pain management program.
They support the worker’s access to medication when it is needed, and offer education and provide alternatives for pain management such as psychological counselling, other medications and pain management programs to reduce or taper the use of the medication.
Decision makers are encouraged to use their discretion and reasonable judgement to guide their decisions and conversations, in order to make the most appropriate and fair decision.
Regardless of where workers are in their recovery, it is important to ensure they, and their prescribing physicians, are included in the opioid management process.
Opioid medication is prescribed to help people manage pain. Generally, it is prescribed when a worker is in an acute stage of their injury (immediately following an accident) or after surgery. It is not intended to be a long-term solution for pain management due to limited evidence for this purpose, and because it can cause significant harm.
WCB-Alberta’s opioid management protocol aligns with published standards of care developed by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA).
Approved payments for opioids are limited to 12 weeks from the date of accident or surgery. This covers the time typically required for acute treatment and ensures workers receive the best outcomes for their recovery and return to work while minimizing harm.
There are some exceptions, for example, when a worker has a terminal condition. In these cases, approved treatment follows what is medically recommended for the worker’s well-being.
Opioids may be prescribed more than once within the life of a claim, such as after a subsequent surgery.
The worker can only use one prescribing physician and one dispensing pharmacy, with the following exceptions:
WCB may authorize payment for prescribed opioids for the management of chronic pain when:
For more context, refer to Policy 04-06, Part 2: Application 4.