Petitioner applied to the Workers' Compensation Court for reimbursement of continued prescription opioid medication as part of his need for palliative care to treat a lower back injury suffered while he was working for respondent employer.
The compensation judge declined to compel the employer to pay for petitioner's prescription opioid medication in accordance with N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 of the Workers' Compensation Act. The statute requires employers to provide treatment to injured employees when the treatment is "necessary to cure and relieve the worker of the effects of the injury and to restore the functions of the injured member or organ where such restoration is possible . . . ." After six years of treating with the same physician who prescribed his pain medication, petitioner's pain had not been alleviated with either therapy or medication.
The court affirmed the compensation judge, holding petitioner failed to prove continued opioid treatment would cure or relieve his injury and return him to better function. The court found N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 requires proof that opioid medication provides curative relief and that continued use of opioids improves the function of the injured worker.