M.D.'s Are the New Pain-Pill Crime Wave

Dr. Dealer

In the mid 1980s, the World Health Organization began encouraging doctors to use opioids to treat cancer patients for pain. In 1995, national medical advocacy groups, many of which took money from the pharmaceutical companies, began advising doctors to use the drugs for non-cancer patients as well.

In 2001, the recommendation was codified by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations "to ensure that patients receive appropriate pain treatment." Doctors were required to treat pain as a disease rather than as a signal of another condition. In addition, the government approved use of these drugs for "moderate to severe pain," which vastly broadened the potential market. Those two changes had enormous consequences. "Pain was no longer considered a symptom but a condition requiring treatment," according to the grand jury report, which was released by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota in April.

Meanwhile, the drug companies began aggressively marketing pain pills as less addictive. They also claimed the pills made pain sufferers more functional. Spota's report described this as a "disgraceful history of careless marketing of opioids."

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s grand jury report renewed attention on pill abuse.
Courtesy Long Island Press/Kathy Kmonicek
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s grand jury report renewed attention on pill abuse.
Investigators linked 16 overdose deaths to Flushing anesthesiologist Stan Xuhui Li. The doctor has not been charged in any of those deaths.
Courtesy the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor
Investigators linked 16 overdose deaths to Flushing anesthesiologist Stan Xuhui Li. The doctor has not been charged in any of those deaths.

The DEA approved issuing 25,000 kilos of hydrocodone in 2002. In 2012, the number climbed to 59,000 kilos. Similarly, the amount of oxycodone pills increased from 34,000 kilos in 2002 to 98,000 in 2012. (While the two drugs are chemically similar—both are semisynthetic opioids—oxycodone is generally considered the more powerful.)

As sales of the drug shot up, the number of unintentional overdoses per 100,000 people tripled. Eventually, opioids replaced Tylenol and aspirin as commonly prescribed pain relievers by doctors. Doctors became afraid of "under-prescribing" pain medication. The fact that the drug was so widely prescribed gave people a false sense of security about the likelihood of addiction. A range of celebrities became enraptured with the drugs, leading to reports of addiction and health problems: the late singer Michael Jackson, radio host Rush Limbaugh, Friends star Matthew Perry, singer Courtney Love, and the late actor Heath Ledger.

"The convergence of these factors became the foundation for the rapid increase in opioid abuse," the Spota report says. "Thus was created the epidemic."

Concerns surrounding use of these drugs actually started years ago. Back in 2007, for example, then state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo won $7 million from Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, as part of a $160 million settlement with the feds on allegations that the company misrepresented the dangers of the drug.

But things didn't get any better. In Suffolk County from 1996 to 2011, the number of people in drug court programs for heroin rose 425 percent, but those in programs for opioid abuse rose 1,100 percent. People in treatment for cocaine use declined by 13 percent. Drug overdose became the leading cause of accidental death in New York State, with prescription-pill overdoses a big part of that.

Although the pain-management community touted the benefits of opioids, other experts told the grand jury that there was no agreement that the use of these opioid painkillers is effective for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. Some studies suggest that the drugs actually hurt the patient's ability to function.

In cities and towns across the state, pill abuse has driven up crime. For example, Massena, New York, a town of 13,000 souls near the Canadian border, saw pill abuse triple the rate of violent crime, according to the town's police chief. As with the crack epidemic, babies born addicted to drugs have once again increased.

Over 10 years, pill-related DWI arrests quadrupled. In 2011, half of those arrests involved not alcohol, but painkillers. Last year, 174 people fatally overdosed on pills in Suffolk County. Arrests for the sale of painkillers went up by a factor of eight, while treatment for painkiller addiction in New York State grew by 300 percent.

The head of the New York State Board of Pharmacy told the grand jury: "Improper prescribing is not a defense for what we are seeing. The numbers are just too staggeringly high. There is not that much chronic pain."

A Suffolk County nurse practitioner who'd been arrested for three counts of possession of forged prescriptions told the grand jury that she started with a mild prescription for Percocet to help her get over a childbirth. Her tolerance increased, and she started taking more. Her doctor sent her to a "pain-management specialist," who radically increased her dosage. She got pregnant again and used the drug through her term. After the birth, her doctor prescribed oxycodone again for pain. She soon increased the dosage, and when she ran out, she started writing her own prescriptions, using the names of relatives.

As she told the grand jury, she "already had a prescription pad with the hospital name on it and a stamper with my DEA number. So, basically, I would just write the prescription under somebody else's name, and then I would bring it to the pharmacy and fill it."

Her husband found her pills, and that led her to attempt suicide. But even though she had two young children and a husband and had surrendered her DEA license, she continued to write false prescriptions.

"At first, I thought that I would go there and they would tell me, 'I'm sorry, we cannot fill this prescription; you do not have a DEA number,'" she told investigators. "Surprisingly enough, my number was still in the system. . . . So they filled it. . . . No one ever said a word. . . . I don't know if they trusted me or just didn't care."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
MrMxyzpltk
MrMxyzpltk

Enough already. There are human beings who are in great pain due to a number of illnesses. The government's nonsensical "War on Drugs" is causing people who legitimately need pain medications (e.g., opioids) great unnecessary problems. Too many doctors are afraid to prescribe medications that are medically necessary because they're scared of having the DEA show up in their offices demanding to see medical records - not just needed records, but ALL their records. So much for doctor-patient confidentiality. But screw confidentiality when so many people -- police, prosecutors, the narco-recovery complex, criminal enterprises, and more -- are hauling in the cash.

 

I know that there are people who are addicted and need help. I was one of them. I'm grateful to have been alcohol- and drug-free for 30+ years and still attend 12-step meetings. But this constant "war" on the latest evil-drug-o'-the-month is insane -- and it isn't working. From 1920 to 1933, the United States government and state governments attempted to ban alcohol. How well did that work? Well, it helped lead to the rise of organized crime, convinced many otherwise law-abiding people that the "law [wa]s a ass -- a idiot" (from Dickens' Oliver Twist), created a spectacular amount of hypocrisy (people who were entrusted with maintaining the law who themselves drank, or who took money from bootleggers, speakeasy owners, smugglers and the like, much the same as, oh, today) and killed a few people here and there. But what are a few deaths when morality is at stake?

 

The majority of medical personnel who prescribe pain medication are on the level. The ones whose pictures grace the newspapers are the exceptions to the rule. As far as this doc having an "alter ego" (current psych jargon calls it "dissociative identity disorder"), I can't help but snicker (although there's the off-chance that it's true). Even if it is true, though, it won't matter. We're at WAR, damn it! Come to think of it, this country is always at war against something or somebody. What would the U.S. do if it wasn't always fighting the latest enemy? Something positive, creative? Nah. Getting angry at an enemy is easier, even if the enemy is non-existent. And the "war" gives the U.S. the right to invade other countries in the name of protecting U.S. citizens who don't want to be protected. O tempora o mores! O bullshit!

nekoman
nekoman

First, I call BS on the Physician that claimed "multiple personality disorder due to sexual abuse by a priest as a child" ! Made-up psychobabble is what that is. She full well knew she was writing those prescriptions, just like all the other "candy store" Drs. out there. You hear of them everywhere you go. And, I'm not being bigoted or racist here only calling it like I see it, most of these Drs. are foreign trained! Greed, greed, and more greed is all it is. They see easy money in it, so they do it.

Second, I'm in a Pain Management program, and have been for six years. I have chronic, severe, intractable pain caused by severe nerve damage from the removal of a spinal cord tumor. I've been told by three Physicians that I will live with pain the rest of my days. I will have to take pain medication for the rest of my days. I have a stimulator implant. I get regular seroid injections, and am getting nerves temporaily destroyed soon, to try and relieve some of the pain. I have a detailed contract with my Pain Management Physician. I must follow it religiously. I am subject to random drug screening. All my medications (narcotic, and non narcotic) are counted every appointment (monthly). I am held accountable for my medications, and their use. At one time I had a daughter that lived with me that is a heavy drug user (severely addicted) and was stealing my medications. I, naively, thought at first that I was taking too many, until I discovered that I had the powerful timed release medication missing. I confronted her. She denied it, of course. I got a lock box, which was promptly broken into, and two pain killers plus anti anxiety medications went missing (large amounts). This got her booted to the curb when she also refused help. Missing medications stopped, but got me into deep shit with my Dr. , and I had to regain her trust in me. Because of the rampant abuse of pain medications in the population, and the greed of a relative few medical professionals, people like myself suffer the consequences! Like HAVING to make 60 mile round trips monthly (on a fixed income) just because the law says certain drugs (time release powerful narcotic pain relievers) have to be WRITTEN paper prescriptions, they cannot be called into, or electronically transmitted to the pharmacy like other medications, including short acting pain relievers which are WIDELY abused and sold illegally, can. So, this not only makes for unnecessary trips, but essentially unneeded Drs. Appointments, too. I follow the rules. I don't abuse drugs. I don't sell drugs. My Dr. is competent, and has high standards and morals. You will never see the addicts, and dealers lined up at her practice! She doesn't do that, and doesn't see those types, they're screened out long beforehand. There's no prescription selling, or handing out for faked, or suggested disorders. My daughter that I mentioned was seeing a Dr. (supposedly a pain specialist} here where I live, much closer than the Dr. that I see. She was obtaining large prescriptions of short acting, and for very powerful (think along the lines of Oxycontin) pain relievers for a supposed diagnosis of "scoliosis". Funny that! We made sure she had regular, yearly physical examinations growing up. Never once did any Physician ever find scoliosis! This is a grown woman that is 5'4" and about 110. No crookedness evident in her posture. No pain evident in her movement. I was a Registered Nurse for 30 years, so I know what I'm talking about. I found out, not only was she taking these drugs, she was also dealing. I also discovered that her Dr. had tried to prescribe fentanyl patches for her "pain", but insurance denied that one! This quack is still practicing, running his "candy store"! My daughter has dropped off the face of the earth after many offers of help to get rehab, she still denies a problem even though she's taken to snorting oxycontin, and the like, but also shooting up heavy shit. I'm in a small city of about 28,000 and the drug problem here is rampant, and so evident among the high school to 30s age groups that it's shocking. You see regular "deals" go down, in the open in front of stores, in parking lots, etc. And, it ain't pot! Pills are the thing here, just ask any younger person, all have used, or are more likely regularly using pain relievers, etc. Too easy for them to get. I've lived in large cities, LA for example, and didn't see drug use like I see it here. It's phenomenal!

jmmartin
jmmartin

Time to throw the baby out with the bathwater: outlaw priests and legalize drugs.

BradForrester
BradForrester

The cannabis community has been successfully weaning addicts off prescription narcotics for at least a decade. Start dumping your big pharma stocks now because when cannabis is legal, the pharmaceutical industry will will see a downturn of monumental proportion!

mbrachman
mbrachman

Damn paginaged articles! I know the VV has to sell advertising to survive, but I am SICK and TIRED of clicking FIVE TIMES to read the important articles. When are the business managers of the VV going to learn that those who read the serious articles not only DON'T look at the ads, we make a concerted effort deliberately to AVERT our eyes from the ads in the marginalia? Free the important articles from the tyranny of business-side-of-the-VV pagination!!!

 
Loading...