By Ed Coghlan.
It’s been an interesting month.
A plucky group of Oregon chronic pain patients—with help from a prominent Stanford pain psychologist—seem to have staved off (for now at least) a proposal by the Oregon Health Authority to force taper Medicaid patients off opioids.
The proposal, which has been heavily criticized by pain physicians, national pain leaders, advocates and patients, was born from the national dialogue that opioids are addictive and need to be expunged.
The proposal won’t come up again before December.
What has been missing from the discussion—in Oregon and across the country—is the point of view of the physicians—many of whom have been cowed by the pressure of state and federal governments who have adopted the “opioids are bad” mantra.
By the way, that Stanford pain psychologist-Dr. Beth Darnall-is leading a voluntary taper study of 1400 pain patients in four western states that is designed to have the patient—and not the government—at the heart of the study. Patients who want to reduce their opioid intake have a chance to do so, not because the government says so, but because they want to.
The operative word there is “want”—no patients are being forced to taper their opioid use
Then, from 350 miles south of Stanford, came word of an attempt by a group of California medical, patient, and advocate leaders to create a “pain strategy” for the state of California.
The Pain Summit will be held November 2nd in Los Angeles with the goal of creating a state pain policy that will be presented to the Legislature, intended to address the need for more physician and patient education, promotion of more insurance coverage for pain procedures, and other patient-centric proposals.
As one Summit organizer shared with me recently, there are fifty pain policies that need to be developed (one for each state).
“California leads on many things—this patient-centric pain strategy will be developed not only to succeed in California, but for people in pain no matter where they live.”
And then there’s the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force will release its chronic pain recommendations at the end of October.
While there is no guarantee of what the federal government will recommend—the issue of “what is best for the patient”—dominated the discussion of hearing recently.
So, is there an answer to the question we pose - are things changing for those in chronic pain?
The answer is maybe.
The voice of the patient in Oregon, in California, in any state you live it and, of course, with the federal government, is critically important.
Share your “voice” with us—but more importantly—share it with leaders in the state where you live!
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To read more about the Stanford Empower Study, click here.