The highly anticipated meeting in Oregon to consider a policy to force taper some Oregon Medicaid pain patient who use opioids took a surprising turn.
The head of the Oregon Health Authority called off today’s review in light of potential conflicts of interest by staff.
Dr. Catherine Livingston is a family medicine physician who serves as a contracted medical consultant to the Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC). In addition, she is a co-investigator on two studies evaluating the impact of HERC’s previous decision to expand pain management coverage for people suffering from back pain.
“It is vital for the Oregon Health Plan to cover safe and effective therapies to help people reduce and manage chronic pain. Yet it is also vital that Oregonians have full confidence in the decisions the HERC makes to assess the effectiveness of health care procedures,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said in a statement published in this press release released on Thursday.
Apparently, Dr. Livingston’s potential conflict was uncovered by a chronic pain activist who has been fighting HERC’s attempt to force taper any pain patients.
“We are pleased that the OHA is taking time to investigate possible conflicts of staff, consultant and commission members,” said Amara M., who prefers we don’t use her last name. “We believe there are other possible conflicts.”
The HERC proposal has received withering criticism from providers who treat chronic pain from across the country and as recently as last week the commission received a letter from Stanford’s Sean Mackey and other pain leaders who wrote:
“We continue to have grave concerns with the primary goal of the current proposal, namely, its call for non-consensual forced tapering off prescription opioid analgesics of a broad class of patients.”
Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D., is Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and Redlich Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Neurosciences and Neurology at Stanford University. He is a Past President of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
For chronic pain advocates in Oregon, today’s delay allows them to continue to work to educate HERC members and the general public about what the advocates believe will cause real damage to chronic pain patients.
“Maybe they can take the time to read Dr. Mackey’s letter and other communications by people who treat chronic pain about what a horribly bad idea forced opioid tapering is,” said Amara M.