Chronic Pain Advocates in Oregon Protest New State Opioid Policy

By Ed Coghlan.

A group of chronic pain patients, advocates and family members picketed health officials in Oregon this week to protest a proposal by the Oregon Health Authority to severely limit chronic pain patients’ access to opioids through the Oregon Health Plan.

A group of advocates gathered to try and bring attention to the issue. The issue received considerable media attention in Portland.

The Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) and its subcommittee Value-based Benefits Subcommittee (VbBS)will be submitting their proposed changes to Medicaid to discontinue long term opioids for chronic pain and fibromyalgia. The changes include a forced taper for all chronic pain patients on opioids (within a year), no exceptions. Opioids will be replaced with alternative treatments (cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), acupuncture, mindfulness, pain acceptance, aqua therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and treatment with non-opioid medications, such as NSAIDS, Acetaminophen).

According to one of the organizers of the event, who wishes to be identified only by “Amara”, the lack of transparency by the VsBC has made it difficult to track exactly how the new guidelines are being developed and called on Oregon state health officials to insert more transparency into the process.

She did acknowledge that adding alternatives like aqua therapy, mindfulness and acupuncture are good additions, because chronic pain patients need to have more “covered” treatment. But the forced taper of opioids, she believes, hurts the intractable chronic pain patient needlessly.

If you want to add your voice to the process, you can and you don’t have to live in Oregon to do it.

Here’s what the Oregon Pain Action Group—a patient advocacy organization—says you can do. In particular, they hope the voices of patient, doctors, caregivers, specialists and other will be added by the end of July.

An August 8th meeting of VbBS and then a meeting of HERC the same day will consider the comments that the public sends in beforehand. In addition , those attending the meeting are expected to be able to testify.

While this policy is aimed at the Medicaid population, organizers believe that whatever policy is adopted will be adopted by every insurance company.

Here are some tips for creating your comment which can be emailed to:

Comments are limited to 1000 words. You should put VsBS in the subject line of the email for your comment to be read and submitted.

  1. Include your conditions and the date they started. Keep it simple, just the diagnoses.
  2. Include if you are currently on long term opioids, do explain how they improve your daily life and functions. An example would be that before your opioid therapy, you were unable to work or care for your family, but now that you are on the opioid therapy, you are able to do those things.
  3. If you’ve been forced off opioids, explain how your quality of life has been negatively affected
  4. List any alternative treatments that you’ve tried in the past and how they worked for you.
  5. State how policy changes will affect you. What will your life be like and how will it not only affect you, but your family, friends, neighbors.

If you submit your comments, share what you told the Oregon officials in our commentary section.

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