The very first meeting of the state's Opioid Fatality Review Board was interrupted by protests at the Capitol Tuesday. Demonstrators spoke out against recent restrictions on prescriptions, but both sides now plan to move forward together.
The Opioid Fatality Review Board was created to better understand how this epidemic is killing so many Oklahomans, but pain patients and doctors want to make sure board members do not forget those who are still alive and suffering.
The health department presented facts inside the meeting. Two years ago, Oklahoma lost more people to prescription opioid overdoses than any other state.
Still, the crackdown is hard on those having to make a lifestyle change, like Leonard McMahan's wife, whose long-term opioid prescriptions are being cut in half.
He says, “It was helping her have a quality of life, but now she does not and her heart condition is worse, and she may have another heart attack on me and die.”
Attorney General Mike Hunter admits the new law is no perfect, but there has been a decrease in the death rate, which coincides with the decrease in opioid sales. Hunter spoke with protesters at his office for an hour after the board meeting, and says he especially wants their doctors to be part of the healing process.
“If we can hear the decision making that’s occurring from the physician, and then connect that with what your problems are, it’s going to help us,” Hunter says.
One solution doctors hope to see is better insurance coverage for less harmful opioid treatments.
Pain management specialist Dr. Blake Kelly says, “They’re more expensive, and many times they will not cover that without a prior authorization or a step therapy process.”
“We’re committed to going down that road and talking to insurers,” Hunter emphasizes, “and try to see what kind of changes in policy that they’d be open to.”
The Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse is meeting Thursday morning at 9:30 at the State Capitol to discuss some of these issues. Hunter says his meeting with pain patients and doctors will be scheduled soon.