By Ed Coghlan.
With the Oregon Chronic Pain Task Force scheduled to meet on Thursday (September 20), the question is whether it will change its mind on a forced taper policy for Oregon Medicaid patients who use opioids to address their chronic pain.
Their recommendation met considerable criticism at an August 9th meeting of a Health Evidence Review Commission subcommittee from over 400 patients and numerous providers who argued that the force taper would hurt patients.
The task force will hear limited public testimony Thursday, but is not expected to make any formal action or create any formal recommendations.
Oregon residents have started a petition aimed at the state’s political leaders. If you want to read it and join the protest, you can do so here.
One leading Oregon physician testified on August 9 in opposition to the policy.
Dr. Ginevra Liptan of Portland tweeted that day: “I tried really hard not to cry, but did anyway, while testifying before the Oregon Health Authority against their disastrous proposal to mandate opiate taper for all chronic pain patients.”
Dr. Liptan is a Portland fibromyalgia physician who suffers from it herself and has since medical school. We asked what she would tell regulators if she were able to attend this Thursday.
“Oregon remains to this day the only state whose Medicaid program does not cover fibromyalgia treatment, which is shameful, and has contributed to our current opioid issues. I testified in 2014 to argue that that by doing this, Medicaid has made inexpensive opioids the primary treatment option available to manage fibromyalgia, since patients have not been able to access physical therapy, see a pain specialist, try any of the FDA-approved medications for fibromyalgia, let alone access any type of alternative options like massage or acupuncture.”
The Oregon Health Authority has drawn nationwide attention for its forced taper policy. Dr. Liptan thinks focusing on more and not less treatment options for chronic pain community should be what OHA focuses on.
“Making fibromyalgia a covered diagnosis on Medicaid is long overdue, as is covering a variety of treatment options. Fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients need MORE tools in their pain management toolbox, not less,” she said. “That would be a reasonable and positive direction Oregon Medicaid could take towards lessening reliance on opioids in chronic pain patient.”