NANS responds to California DWC order to discontinue coverage of non-opioid treatment options for chronic pain

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The North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS) has issued a response to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) order which adopts regulations to update the evidence-based treatment guidelines of the Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS), effective 1 December, 2017. Under the updated treatment guidelines for chronic pain, injured workers will no longer have access to neuromodulation, a non-addictive, FDA-approved treatment option, which is covered for patients in 48 other states.

“At a time when the opioid epidemic is devastating California’s communities and has been declared a national public health emergency, the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS) is deeply disappointed and remains concerned that the order will put patients and physicians in a vulnerable position as it relates to chronic pain management and opioid dependency,” said Ashwini Sharan,  president of NANS and programme director of the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University. “NANS stands united that it is not the time for the DWC to discontinue coverage for therapies that can effectively reduce or eliminate the need for chronic pain sufferers to take opioids.”

Chronic pain, which affects about one in three Americans, has a significant impact on the quality of life, employment and families of those suffering from this debilitating condition. In California, opioid-related poisoning / overdose deaths remain high with 2,024 deaths in 2014, accounting for 45% of all overdose deaths in the state.

“Access to non-addictive treatment alternatives for pain management is more important than ever, as recent recommendations from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have urged,” said Joshua Prager, director of the Center for the Rehabilitation Pain Syndromes (CRPS) at UCLA Medical Plaza and past president of NANS. “Neuromodulation is a non-addictive, minimally invasive, reversible and cost-effective alternative to opioid therapy for chronic pain. The foreclosure of access to this treatment alternative will undoubtedly lead to a larger number of prescriptions, as well as increasing levels of misuse, addiction and overdose.”

NANS urges California physicians, patients and caregivers to contact their state representative to advocate for their care. Contact information for local legislators can be found at findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

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