Oregon Health Authority Completes Tapering Guidelines for Opioid Patients

 

Approving new guidelines, the final meeting of Oregon’s Opioid Taper Guidelines Task Force took place on Friday October 25. Consisting of 26 experts from across the state, the task force has been meeting monthly since March to develop a set of tapering guidelines for use by medical professionals and patients alike.  

In a release, Chief Medical Officer Dana Hargunani, M.D says that “Before the development of these guidelines, there were few resources and evidence related to tapering that clinicians could look to for guidance. We hope bringing together experts and community members around the state helped us develop useful guidelines that promote trusting dialogue, individualized care and patient safety.”  

This is not the first task force OHA has formed in response to the Opioid Crisis. A 2016 task force helped establish prescribing guidelines for patients with chronic and acute pain, dentists and pregnant women, which the tapering guidelines build upon.  

OHA’s efforts to control the epidemic appear to be paying off: since 2006 there has been a 52% decline in deaths due to prescription opioids, and fill rates have fallen by 29% since 2015. 

However, the state’s approach has not gone without criticism. This May, international NGO Human Rights Watch expressed concern over Oregon’s tapering policies in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown.   

“When a patient comes to a doctor and says: ‘I want to reduce my dose,’ or agrees with the doctor that is the best decision, those can be successful and studies show that,” said HRW researcher Laura Mills. “The problem … is with involuntary dose reductions. When the doctor just says: ‘That’s it. I’m cutting you off.’ Because it really, really destabilizes those patients.”  

By Brandon Urey