The Oregon Health Authority’s Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) has decided to remove requirements for opioid tapering for neck and back pain.
The Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) today voted unanimously to update Oregon Health Plan (OHP) coverage for neck and back pain, by removing requirements for opioid tapering. The change will be effective October 1.
Also under consideration was a proposal to cover opioids and a variety of alternative modalities for the five chronic pain conditions at issue – in addition to ceasing mandatory tapers. Although that option represented an ideal according to many, experts, and was the option for which we advocated, OHA declined to go for that option.
“The vote is a significant win. Oregon reconsidered the 2016 policy of force-tapering patients with conditions of the back, neck and spine, and declined to force taper those with chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia,” said Kate Nicholson, a disability right attorney who was one of the national voices that protested Oregon’s forced tapering policy.
The effectiveness of national attention that came to the issue was more than augmented by a plucky group of Oregon Medicaid patients—who showed what the power of advocacy can really do. They made calls, they wrote letters and generally kept up the local pressure.
“The HERC is often faced with important decisions with limited clinical evidence available,” said Dana Hargunani, M.D., chief medical officer at OHA. “We want to thank the members for their thoughtful deliberations. We are committed to reviewing new forthcoming evidence ahead.”
Meanwhile, the HERC unanimously declined to cover treatments for the five chronic pain conditions that had been under consideration since 2017, citing a lack of evidence of clinical effectiveness for both non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatments for those conditions.
The five conditions under consideration were: chronic pain due to trauma, post-procedural chronic pain, chronic pain syndrome, other chronic pain, and fibromyalgia.