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News of the Day ... in Perspective

DEA explains withdrawal of FAQ on prescription pain medicines

The Drug Enforcement Agency has published an explanation of its decision to withdraw its August 2004 document entitled “Prescription Pain Medications: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals and Law Enforcement Personnel,” citing “misstatements.”

The DEA “interim statement” is published in the Federal Register of Nov. 16, pp 67170-67172.

This statement does not require notice and comment because it is a “policy statement,” and “policy statements, unlike legislative rules, are not binding.” This statement represents no change in DEA interpretations.

The document affirms that the Government “can investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even just because it wants assurances that it is not.” The withdrawn document had suggested that the mere prescribing of a large number of doses of opioids would not be grounds for investigation. Emphatically, this is not the case. The “red flags” continue to trigger aggressive law enforcement.

Moreover, the August 2004 FAQ “understated the degree of caution that a physician must exercise to minimize the likelihood of diversion when dispensing controlled substances to known or suspected addicts.”

Additional information:

Defense brief in trial of Dr. William Hurwitz

AAPS congressional briefing on pain, Sept. 17

Trial of Dr. Hurwitz, News of the Day Archive 11/14/04

The pain patient’s perspective, www.painreliefnetwork.org

News of the Day Archive