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Hundreds of chronic pain patients oppose opioid policy change

A controversial, first-in-the-nation proposal would end coverage of opioids for chronic pain patients enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan.

By PARIS ACHEN

Capital Bureau

Published on September 17, 2018 5:44PM

Chronic pain patients protest outside of the Oregon Health Authority office in Salem in July 2018.

Capital Bureau

Chronic pain patients protest outside of the Oregon Health Authority office in Salem in July 2018.

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The public will have another chance to speak Thursday on a controversial, first-in-the-nation proposal that would end coverage of opioids for chronic pain patients enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan — the state version of Medicaid.

Hundreds — even thousands — of chronic pain patients would see their opioid prescriptions phased out over a 12-month period beginning in 2020.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority have already received more than 400 emails from patients and 14 from providers largely opposing the policy change.

The state Chronic Pain Task Force will convene from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20 in the Candlewood Room at Wilsonville Holiday Inn, 25425 SW 95th Ave. in Wilsonville, to review emailed comments, consider refinement of the policy and take additional public comments at the meeting.

Dr. Dana Hargunani, OHA chief medical officer, has said the proposal is intended to reduce the risk of addiction and overdose among chronic pain patients.

Proponents of the policy cite statistics from the National Institute of Drug Abuse showing that nearly 80 percent of heroin users first use prescription opioids. Only 4 percent of prescription opioid users start using heroin within five years.

Additionally, Oregon had a more than 5 percent spike in drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending April 3, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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