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HHS Inter-Agency Task Force Urges New Ways to Limit Opioid Use and Addiction

January 3, 2019
The proposed recommendations will be submitted to Congress in 2019.

A PPM Brief

The Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force has released a new draft report,1 taking a look at opioid exposure and addiction. The task force has stressed the need for changes in the treatment of opioid-addicted patients, including a call for efforts to address the stigma surrounding substance abuse. The draft report urged “consistent and timely insurance coverage” for interventional procedures early in pain treatment, while also calling for the establishment of criteria-based guidelines for credentialing properly trained physicians.

Source: 123RF

Other noteworthy recommendations outlined in the draft include:

  • The use of multidisciplinary approaches for perioperative pain control, such as preoperative psychology, screening and monitoring, and planning for managing pain of moderate to severe complexity.
  • Urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other insurers to align their reimbursement guidelines for nonopioid pharmacologic therapies with current clinical practice guidelines.
  • The consideration of acupuncture, mindfulness, movement therapy, art therapy, massage therapy, manipulative therapy, yoga, and Tai Chi as non-opioid treatment options.
  • Conducting more research on complementary approaches to determine value, risk and benefits, mechanisms of action, and economic contributions.
  • Countering stigma that “equates pain with weakness” through public relation campaigns, encouraging early treatment for persistent pain.
  • Addressing the perceived racial bias seen with treatment of pain for people with sickle cell disease.

Of note, the task force looked at numerous influencers on the physician side that may have impacted the current opioid climate, including:

  • The aggressive marketing of newer opioid products at a time of limited coverage for other pain management options.
  • The demand for electronic health records (EHRs) to lower pain scores, which may have increased physician burnout and lowered the ability of physicians to focus and care for the complexities of pain.
  • The unintended consequences of policies such as those from state monitored programs, which may have caused some clinicians to refuse to provide prescriptions for patients on a stable regimen. As a result, desperate patients may have turned to illicit drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 called for the establishment of this 29-member task force, including federal officials and pain experts from both academia and private practice. Overseen by HHS and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the task force intends to submit a final set of recommendations to Congress after receiving public comments through April 1, 2019.

Read also about the Interagency Working Group on the Prevention of Acute and Chronic Pain

Last updated on: January 15, 2019