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DEA withdraws FAQ on pain medications

On October 6, the DEA withdrew a widely circulated set of “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals and Law Enforcement Personnel,” stating that “the document was not approved as an official statement of the agency and did not and does not have the force of law.”

On August 11, 2004, the DEA and Pain and Policy Studies Group had issued a press release quoting DEA Administrator Karen Tandy as stating: “The medical and law enforcement communities continue to work together to carefully balance the needs of legitimate patients for pain medications against the equally compelling need to protect the public from the risk of addiction and even possible death from these medications.”

The DEA did not respond to a telephone inquiry asking for identification of the “misstatements” in the document.

The document had been perceived as an attempt to reassure physicians who prescribe opioids that they need not fear arbitrary prosecution. It was specifically referred to by federal Judge David Bury in the sentencing of Dr. Jeri Hassman.

AAPS referred to the statement as a “placebo.”

The pamphlet bears the logo the Office of Diversion Control of the Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the statement that it was prepared “in partnership with” Last Acts Partnership and the Pain & Policy Studies Group of the University of Wisconsin Madison Medical School. Names of the Principal Working Group and a Review Committee were listed. It has been pulled from the DEA web site.

Additional information:

Scan of the withdrawn FAQ, the commentary entitled “No Safe Harbor” distributed by AAPS, and other materials from the Sept 17 congressional briefing on pain management. http://www.aapsonline.org/painman/pbmaterials.htm

DEA Statement Regarding Withdrawn Document

Last Acts project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Last Acts Partnership: AAPS News, Nov 1999, p 1; Feb 2001, p 2; Feb 2004, p 2.

Notes from sentencing hearing of Dr. Jeri Hassman

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