The findings in a study in the state of Michigan suggest that access to primary care may be reduced for patients taking prescription opioids.
The study results were published in the past week (July 13) in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) Network and indicate that unintended consequences such as conversation to illicit substances or reduced management of other medical co-morbidities could occur.
The lead author is Pooja Lagisetty, MD of the University of Michigan. She and her team interviewed primary care clinic accepted both Medicaid and private insurance, took new patient appointments using a simulated patient call audit method. The “simulated” patient was an adult with chronic pain who was taking long-term opioids.
The survey revealed what many chronic pain patients who use opioids and are looking for a new physician already know—finding a physician is becoming increasingly difficult.
Citing media reports that call these patients “opioid refugees”, the authors state that the restrictions by primary care providers… “may leave patients without options for slow opioid tapers; non opioid treatment options”…
The study further states that abandoning this population could lead to unintended consequences including “potentially even increased risk of suicide.”
194 of 219 eligible clinics were interviewed. 40.7% said outright the providers were not willing to provide care for new patients taking opioids. 41.8% were willing to schedule an initial appointment and 17% wanted more information.
The study caught our attention because of the number of readers who have contacted the National Pain Report about finding a new physician.
We received this from an Atlanta woman via email this weekend.
Comment: Please, I need to find a pain management doctor in Atlanta. Mine has cut my meds by a third (so far, more to come) and the pain that had been managed for almost 20 years is back. Please help! Please.
For Richard “Red” Lawhern Ph.D., head of the Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain, the answer is putting more pressure on State Medical Boards.
In an email to one of the reporters who covered this study, Lawhern said, “I suggest that this medical disaster is wholly unnecessary, and that State Medical Boards need to participate in correcting the false policy narratives which have caused these outcomes. The so-called “war on drugs” has been turned into a “war against pain patients and their doctors”. This has to change NOW, not next year!”
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