Doctors suggest alternative treatments to help chronic pain


    OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - Some doctors are suggesting alternative ways to treating chronic pain after new guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are restricting the amount of opioid medication a doctor can prescribe to a patient.

    On Tuesday, dozens of Oklahomans with chronic pain rallied against the guidelines and said they're losing their quality of life without their proper medications.

    "Just because you heard the word 'opioid' doesn't mean you start treating people inhumane," said a chronic pain patient.

    "People are committing suicide because they can't get their pain controlled," said Patty Loveless, a chronic pain patient.

    Dr. Blake Kelly, with the Oklahoma Pain Center, said patients can start with exercising.

    "You can start exercising and being more active. Then that has a positive effect that can lead to less medication in the long run," said Kelly.

    Kelly said other treatments include water aerobics, chiropractic care, physical therapy, spinal cord stimulation, massage therapy or injections.

    "Many times, they are successful to keep patients off opioids or to minimize their opioids," said Kelly.

    Kelly said the challenge with some of the alternatives is that some insurance carriers won't cover them.

    "I see where people are getting denied pain medication because it's not covered by their insurance plan. They can't afford that," said Loveless.

    "Many times they are covered, but there are many steps that are put in the way as a roadblock to getting them covered. Or, they may only be covered for a certain number of treatments," said Kelly.

    Kelly said that can become a barrier to getting a patient on board with something safer. He said the same problem comes with prescribing buphrenorphine.

    "It is the safest, least addictive opioid," said Kelly. "It doesn’t have the high associated with it. One of most important features of it is you don’t grow immune to it. Whatever dose controls your pain today will control your pain in a decade."

    Kelly said unfortunately, some insurance companies exclude the drug from plans, making copays extremely high.

    "The co-insurances can be in the hundreds of dollars, whereas they can get a prescription of, say, Percocet or Norco for $10" said Kelly.

    FOX 25 reached out to Blue Cross and Blue Shield Oklahoma Headquarters on Wednesday to ask why it's more difficult for patients to get a safer, less addictive drug over other, more addictive opioids. A media contact said they are working to provide an answer.

    As the fight against the new CDC guidelines continues, the attorney general's office announced that on Thursday morning, the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse will be meeting at the Capitol to work to address the ongoing crisis and take possible action regarding pending legislation on State Bill 1446.

    The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m.

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