By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4)– As Denver, along with 12 other local governments, prepare for a major lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, there are people on the other side of the opioid argument. Specifically, a group of senior citizens who believe the state has gone too far in the fight against opioids.
“We just want to live the rest of our lives pain free, what we’ve got left, pain free, that’s all,” said Beverly Converse.
Converse, 77, and four of her neighbors talked with CBS4’s Jamie Leary about the impacts of the growing restrictions. They are all seniors with varying degrees of chronic pain. They all prefer to treat their pain with opioids but say their doctors restrict their pills and in some cases refuse to prescribe.
“Why is it my fault that these kids are overdosing or selling these drugs to other people? I’m not!” exclaimed Jean Iiams, 77.
Much to the group’s dismay, Colorado keeps pushing. At the end of May, Gov. John Hickenlooper passed several laws placing restrictions on opioid prescriptions.
All five use Medicaid, which also made restrictions in response to the opioid crisis.
“We tightened our policy last year on the number of opioids being prescribed following an analysis of our claims data. That analysis showed a growing number of our members who had not taken opioids before, or who had not taken them for up to one year, went on to use the drugs more frequently once they had been prescribed. Before that policy change, a doctor could prescribe a 30-day fill,” said Marc Williams, Public Information Officer for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
Hickenlooper also appointed an opioid task force, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse, which works in many ways to reduce dependence.
“The biggest problem we face is too many people getting them in the first place when maybe they could’ve gotten something else,” said Dr. Robert Valuck, Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Colorado.
Valuck is also the director of the opioid task force, which is actively trying to educate upcoming and current physicians on efforts.
“We’re teaching doctors, both in med school and out in practice in continuing education, to prescribe alternatives to opioids up front and to see if they can try other modalities of treatment. Not, don’t ever use them, just don’t go to them first,” said Valuck.
Valuck says none of the state’s efforts are designed to prohibit people who need opioids from getting them.
Iiams and her neighbors say while they are aware of the problem, they still don’t believe the should face any restrictions.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.