Some Oregon Medicaid patients with chronic pain could be forced by the state to be tapered off opioids within a year.
The government should not make that decision. It should be made by a patient’s doctor.
There is no question Oregon and the nation have a serious problem with opioid abuse. Overprescribing is one cause. Patients can also scam doctors into prescribing more pills than they need. The state’s chronic pain task force has been trying to come up with a policy to deal with the issue for the Oregon Health Authority. The task force has considered a one-year taper-off rule for patients on long-term opioid therapy with fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome and other chronic pain categories.
But it’s hard to make a rule for prescribing opioids for chronic pain without unnecessarily limiting options for doctors and denying patients in pain a treatment the treatment that may be most effective.
Opioids are not the answer for pain for everyone or for every condition. Other drugs and alternatives to drugs, though, also won’t work best for everyone. The research is fairly clear. There is little question that giving patients higher doses of opioids can increase the risk that they overdose. There is mixed evidence that forcing patients to taper off opioids makes their lives better.
Doctors are in the best position to make opioid prescription decisions for their patients — not the state.