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News of the Day ... in Perspective

3/16/2004

Drug crackdown hits chronic pain patients

Having already arrested 50 doctors for alleged improper prescribing of painkillers in 2003, federal regulators are sharply increasing their actions against physicians who prescribe opioids.

If a patient turns around and sells his drugs, the doctor can be held responsible, says the DEA. The government does not need to prove that the doctor acted with explicit criminal intent. Showing that the doctor prescribed drugs “outside the bounds of traditional medical practice–a statement open to a variety of interpretations–is enough.

Critics say the DEA numbers on prescription drug abuse are inflated in order to generate a crisis.

Patients are feeling the effects. Stated a 48-year-old nurse, “my life began again” when her doctor prescribed OxyContin for chronic bone pain caused by leukemia. But since the doctor cut her off and substituted a less controversial morphine preparation, she has felt “woozy and high.” (Wall Street Journal, Mar. 16, 2004).

Additional information:

Dr. Rottschaefer of Pittsburgh convicted. See updates on targeted doctors.

Interpretation of Aberrant Drug-Related Behaviors - by Dr. Frank Fisher, J Am Phys Surg 2004;9:25-28.

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