A Pharmacist-Led Program to Taper Opioid Use at Kaiser Permanente Northwest: Rationale, Design, and Evaluation

Perm J. 2020;24:19.216. doi: 10.7812/TPP/19.216. Epub 2020 Apr 21.


Introduction: Primary care practitioners (PCPs) are concerned about adverse effects and poor outcomes of opioid use but may find opioid tapering difficult because of a lack of pain management training or time constraints limiting patient counseling. In 2010, Kaiser Permanente Northwest implemented a pharmacist-led opioid tapering program-Support Team Onsite Resource for Management of Pain (STORM)-to address high rates of opioid use, alleviate PCPs' workload demands, and improve patient outcomes.

Objective: To describe the rationale, structure, and delivery of this unique pharmacist-led program, which partners with PCPs and provides individualized care to help patients reduce opioid use, and the Facilitating Lower Opioid Amounts through Tapering study, which examines the program's effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and implementation.

Results: The STORM program includes a pain medicine physician, a social worker or nurse, and pharmacists who have received specialized clinical and communications training. The program has a 2-fold role: 1) to provide PCP education about pain management and opioid use and 2) to offer clinician and patient support with opioid tapering and pain management. After program training, PCPs are equipped to discuss the need for tapering with a patient and to refer to the program. Program pharmacists provide a range of services, including opioid taper plans, nonopioid pain management recommendations, and taper-support outreach to patients.

Discussion: The STORM program provides individualized care to assist patients with opioid tapering while reducing the burden on PCPs.

Conclusion: The STORM program may be a valuable addition to health care systems and settings seeking options to address their patients' opioid tapering needs.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Pharmacists
  • Primary Health Care


  • Analgesics, Opioid