On Thursday (March 14th), the Oregon Health Authority is going to vote on a proposal that just about everyone who treats chronic pain thinks is a bad idea.
Essentially, the proposal would force Oregon Medicaid patients off opioid medications without their consent.
This vote is happening despite intense criticism aimed at the agency from over 100 leaders in pain medicine, addiction and public health who raised their concern in a letter that was sent to the Oregon Health Authority. It said that the risks of involuntary tapering and the importance of facilitating access of medications to people who need them should be at the center of the debate.
The experts also pointed out there aren’t data to support the premise that forced tapering of opioids works for patients and that, in fact, the practice itself is dangerous to patients.
The pain leaders said in their letter that Oregon’s proposal “is a large-scale experiment on medically, psychologically and economically vulnerable Oregonians at a moment when Oregon has already seen a significant reduction in opioid prescribing.”
As the former head of the Southern Pain Society, Dr. Geralyn Datz said this weekend in a tweet from the American Academy of Pain Medicine meeting in Denver:
“(We need) Psychological strategies for opioid tapering and patient centered care. Regarding the new trend of forced tapers: “These policies are written to the dose, not the person. (There is a) Dire need for tailoring to patients needs– preferences & careful patient selection.”
This forced taper policy would already have been adopted by the OHA had not a group of chronic pain patients—led by Amara Moon not rallied people in Oregon and pain leaders from around the country.
The New York Times reported recently that as opioid prescribing fell, pain patients suffered. The story revealed that doctors and insurers are using federal guidelines as cover to turn away patients, experts tell the C.D.C. and Congress.
The OHA is willing to pay for more alternative therapies for pain patients—like cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture and physical therapy– while they are being forced to “get off” opioids.
How they act this week will not only be important to the state of Oregon and its, but also may, according to chronic pain advocates, encourage other states to follow what they believe is a very bad example of public policy.
The meeting starts at 1:30 pm on Thursday.
Public listen-in only line: 1-888-204-5984, participant code 801373
Webinar Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/4563145172385374211