Lawmakers are getting started this summer addressing Missouri’s substance abuse problem. A task force focusing on that meets once a month at the state capitol. Last week, lawmakers heard testimony from medical professionals in the field.

Joshua Moore, is MO HealthNet’s Director of Pharmacy. He was one of the guests who spoke at length before the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force.

“We’re going to treat the participant as long as they need to be treated,” Moore said in explaining the approach to treating pain. “We aren’t going to cut off access at the MO HealthNet level to these products. The same thing goes for somebody that has a relapse. We aren’t going to give you 1, 2, 3 tries to stop using opioids. We’re going to continue to allow people to have multiple attempts because we know that it takes multiple attempts.”

Moore likened it to a diabetic having a doughnut, saying that MO HealthNet won’t cut the patients off from their insulin, doctors will continue to treat them.

CDC data shows that nearly 2,200 Missourians died of a drug overdose in 2021 and 2022, most involved non-heroin opioids.

In trying to reduce overdoses from pharmaceutical opioids, Moore found that it was easier for patients to get an opioid versus a non-opioid to treat pain.

“If a patient needed, if they had back pain, for instance, it used to be harder to get a non-opioid alternative for back pain than to get an opioid, and we wanted to flip that switch to no, no, no, it needs to be much easier to get the non-opioid product and focus on available options,” he explained.

Restrictions were recently loosened on what can be prescribed to treat pain. Instead of an opioid, doctors and pharmacists now can prescribe patches, nonsteroidal, or anti-inflammatory drugs, instead of an opioid prescription.

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