Oregon Opioid Plan Angers Chronic Pain Patients

In mid-July, a group of patients with chronic pain, advocates and family members picketed to protest a proposal by the Oregon Health Authority to severely limit patients’ access to opioids through the Oregon Health Plan. The issue has received considerable media attention in Portland. One of the group’s organizers says lack of transparency by state health officials has made it difficult to track exactly how the new guidelines are being developed.
The Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) and its subcommittee Value-based Benefits Subcommittee (VbBS) will submit 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 within a year with no exceptions. Opioids will be replaced with alternative treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acupuncture, mindfulness, pain acceptance, aqua therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and treatment with non-opioid medications.

The National Pain Report published an article by columnist Steve Ariens, a retired pharmacist and spouse of a chronic pain patient. Ariens argues there is not enough data proving the effectiveness of alternative therapy, but there is significant data proving the effectiveness of opioid use for chronic pain.

Ariens believes that health officials supporting the proposed changes “ignore and/or discount studies that have found that patients were found to be functioning quite well after 10 or more years on generally stable opioid dosages, with the vast majority of patients able to care for themselves, drive their cars, etc.” He also points out that opiate prescriptions are down about 25 percent from their peak in 2011-2012.

Ariens notes Oregon’s $1 billion dollar annual budget shortfall when he warns, “Oregon is one of a handful of states that has a ‘death with dignity’ law allowing terminal patients to elect to end their lives with assistance from their prescriber. When pain is not treated, it can delay healing, decrease appetite, increase stress, disrupt sleep, and ultimately cause anxiety and depression. These adverse physical health outcomes may make the patient eligible for using Oregon’s ‘death with dignity’ law.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, warns, “I am convinced that ending opioid prescriptions for Medicaid patients in Oregon will lead to more requests for assisted suicide. When pain is not effectively controlled, people will experience greater levels of illness which will often lead to people becoming more desperate. Assisted suicide is a cheaper alternative to treatment. Dead people don’t require care.”


  1. I have been forced to live this nightmare! I see where some people have abused pain meds, and do believe we should have a common sense reaction to this issue. One that would care for all. And not use a broad political brush to be all knowing, which they are not! POLITICS have become epic in their quick to judge, get on the band wagon, score political points. And then there are the Insurance companies that profit off of this madness. This is mob mentality at it’s worst. And those who believe they have a ” right to life” are actually the ones with a ‘NOT RUSH TO JUDGEMENT ONE ANYONE’, are actually right.
    I dare any one person on that committee to make such laws, have NEVER suffered in chronic pain. 98% just go along because it sounds good. But they have never lived it, felt it, or even have had someone close to them have chronic pain. It is, in fact, a life threatening condition for many. How would you feel to know that politics and think takers have come up with a way to murder and kill off those of us that require assistance. And do not abuse drugs! Instead monitor themselves, and are able to live, work as best they can, and live a productive life, and family life. It is the cowards way out to say, ‘oh they are all addicts.” They say that why? Because they have NEVER experienced it EVER. They need to do their homework and study before they make judgement on others. Here in America, I never thought that POLITICS would try to ruin any good Dr’s for helping those of us who need the help. Or to use POLITICS to crush industries for their own power and profit. They who agree with this horrific control over others think of themselves as ” do gooders” . When in fact their recklessness is causing extreme pain to thousands and hundreds of thousands of Americans. What about our BILL OF RIGHTS? For happiness of our life? When does the CONTROL of others stop? What of our FREEDOMS? We are cast aside like trash, treated as less than valuable, accused of being scum, FOR WHAT? ONLY YOU IN POLITICS KNOW BETTER! That is what is wrong. Life has many different outcomes. Many are not blessed with perfect bodies, or perfect outcomes from surgeries, many from birth are doomed to live in pain. So what is the answer? COMPASSION, hope, caring, and assisting all. When there is documentation to support those of us who have “as example” Massive nerve root damage, scaring from fires, damage from an accident; that supports the NEED for opioids to save their life, by giving them the peace of not being forced to suffer by others; and can be productive citizen’s in this life; WHY DENY US. WHY CAUSE US TO SUFFER DUE TO YOUR LACK OF UNDERSTANDING?
    I am ANGRY, but more importantly disappointed that our country has become so callus to everything. Everthing must be BLACK OR WHITE, when in reality we live in constant shades of grey. What husband would like to see his wife in severe pain as in crowning at child birth, stay at that pain level every day every hour of every day for the rest of her life? Answer, they would not except that if it continued!! But yet condem those of us that must live it, to stay in it, call us names etc!!!! everyone in POLITICS must just slow down, and think of those we love who are suffering. DO NOT kick us , hurt us , or tell us that we have no pain, that we are just addicts, and that YOU KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR US, BECAUSE YOU DON’T. The policies you are drafting won’t help. The policies you are forming should be STOPPED! Until you stop throwing those of us who are damaged and and will NEVER RECOVER are compassionately dealt with. Where is your heart? Where is your compassion? For what you are doing wrong. And one day you might be in our position, then what? YOU will be called names, not helped, told it is between your ears, etc. And even with the proper paperwork to prove your pain, your are denied the very help by other beaurocrats who have never had to deal with chronic pain themselves. Where are OUR FREEDOM TO LIFE? WHERE IS OUR RIGHT TO LIFE?

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