Jewish World Review July 4, 2003 / 4 Tamuz, 5763

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

The Medicine Men
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


The Painful DEA II: War on legal drugs ensnares too many doctors and not enough dealers


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Prosecutors and law enforcement officials throughout the country are egregiously targeting doctors for helping patients manage crippling pain with controlled, legal drugs.

We've addressed this topic before ("The Painful DEA") but find the need to keep commenting until justice is done and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other government officials get it right. Judging from letters we've received, many people ?" particularly seniors, the chronically ill and disabled ?" are very upset about the DEA's interference with their ability to receive appropriate medical treatment.

For example, in an overzealous prosecution, the Arizona medical community was shocked by the indictment of Tucson physician Jeri Hassman, M.D., on charges stemming from her legal prescriptions for pain relief for her patients.

Speaking at a news conference on June 26 at Hassman's Tucson offices, Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, explained why AAPS has decided to support Dr. Hassman: "Throughout the United States, physicians are being threatened, impoverished, delicensed, and imprisoned for prescribing in good faith with the intention of relieving pain."

Donate to JWR

For some government officials, the "War on Drugs" has come to also mean a war on lawful drugs and against the doctors who prescribe them and the patients who take them. Some prosecutors try to make political careers out of high-publicity cases involving the hot "drug du jour" such as OxyContin. But this war is causing enormous collateral damage and deaths to innocent patients from "friendly fire."

Physicians have been drummed out of practice, jailed and even driven to suicide in the face of these 21st century witch hunts. "These doctors are treating patients at great personal risk. If this continues, not one doctor will be willing to prescribe the medications that patients so desperately need," warned Dr. Orient.

The real problem is not drugs, but drug misuse. Drugs are dangerous and must be treated with respect. Yet to many patients, drugs are life-saving.

"Law enforcement agents are using deceitful tactics employed to snare doctors, and prosecutors manipulate the legal system to frighten doctors and patients who might be willing to testify on behalf of the wrongfully accused doctors," said Orient. For example, she explained that law enforcement sends undercover actors to doctors to feign pain and beg for drugs.

Several of Hassman's patients spoke about the debilitating pain they suffer and their problems finding doctors to treat them now that their doctor's license and ability to write prescriptions have been suspended. Physicians at the press conference confirmed they now practice in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Physicians and pharmacies already do report potential "drug-seeking" patients to law enforcement, yet are never warned by law enforcement officials about patients they believe are "drug seekers" trying to take advantage of physicians or pharmacies. Communication is flowing in only one direction.

Law enforcement uses outdated norms for assessing excessive prescribing. Investigators frequently look at the volume and duration of drug use as the primary trigger for an indictment. This is no longer appropriate, as standards for appropriate and accepted treatment have changed, leading to indictments of pain specialists simply due to the volume of their necessary prescriptions.

To stop the misuse of prescribed drugs without depriving patients of life-saving medication requires cooperation between police and physicians, not persecutions and prosecutions In order to focus the debate on criminals rather than innocent patients and doctors, AAPS kicked off a national three-point "Communicate and Cooperate" campaign at the press conference to work with law enforcement, making the following recommendations:

1. Work Together

Doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement officials should work together to track and report potential drug abusers to each other.

2. Professional Medical Review of Potential Cases

Before charges are filed against a pharmacist or doctor, a review board of medical professionals should meet under the auspices of the Department of Justice to assess a physician's practices, rather than totally relying on judgments made by non-medical police and prosecutors.

3. Mutual Training and Communication

Law enforcement investigators should received training in modern medical treatment and current trends. Medical professionals should be informed of suspected drug abusers.

Notes Orient, "In the art of medicine, investigators must be able to distinguish between a difference of opinion in what is proper treatment, and specific criminal intent. The DEA could pull the plug on most drug diversion by working with doctors instead of against them."

Currently the war on legal drugs ensnares too many doctors and not enough dealers. Those who require legal medications ought to be able to receive them without their doctors and pharmacists going to jail!




Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.

Up

06/20/03: The Medicare Mess: Will President Bush call Congress' Bluff?
06/13/03: Diagnosis: School Insanity: A suit for sanity and school discipline
06/05/03: Soaring Medical Costs: Rational ignorance or rational enlightenment?
05/30/03: A Tale of Two Admirable Women: Jessica and Annika
05/23/03: Latest medical innovation: Cash
05/09/03: We feel your pain; Physicians have it too no thanks to the DEA
05/02/03: Medical Quarterbacking
04/25/03: CNN the "Conscience-Not Network"
04/21/03: Medical Miranda?
04/11/03: Are childhood vaccines shots in the dark?
04/09/03: The PETA Principle -- The lambshank Redemption
03/28/03: American conscience?
03/21/03: West Wimps or Wings: Treatment for Hollywood Hypocrisy
03/13/03: Worldwide schmaltz shortage looms --- all because of a featherless chicken
03/06/03: Legal metastases are killing us
02/28/03: Outside the Jury Box: Seeking Justice rather than a Lottery in Medical Liability
02/21/03: Workforce temperature rising; employer TLC in demand
02/14/03: Malpractice Insurance: They Reap What They Sue
02/12/03: Hawk, Dove or Groundhog: Diagnosis Critical List; Prognosis Uncertain
02/07/03: How about tax cuts for the "rich" and "poor"?
01/31/03: AIDS Bug Chasers
01/24/03: Libertarian moment or movement?
01/17/03: It's not just 'sue the docs' anymore
01/03/03: A pox on the critics; diagnosis sour grapes
01/03/03: If protesting is good for your health; then at least let's root for the home team
12/20/02: Obesidemic (obesity epidemic) or not?
12/20/02: Time for voluntary informed smallpox vaccinations
12/13/02: The real reason the state opposes homeschooling?
12/06/02: Conscience of a former conservative: Portrait of a political metamorphosis
11/27/02: Thanksgiving dinner hazard?
11/22/02: Time to think outside the box and inside the nucleus
11/15/02: The military should be protected from abusive environmental laws in times of war
11/11/02: Does Kyoto Treaty pose more harm than global warming?
10/31/02: Deep thoughts on Baseball, the World Series and Life: How about them Anaheim Angels?
10/23/02: "Pediatric rule" guinea pigs
10/23/02: Once the World Series ends, we need to create a Donnie Moore Day of Remembrance: Sports and mental health
10/18/02: Congress to senior patients: Do as we say not as we do for ourselves
10/11/02: Using pollution "scare labeling" to political advantage
10/04/02: The Great Asbestos Heist: Did Litigation and Junk Medical Science Helped Bring Down the World Trade Center?
09/27/02: The imminent rise of civic feminism: A far healthier national alternative in war and peace
09/20/02: A Ray A Day" to replace the daily apple?
09/13/02: Beware of celebrities hawking drugs
09/06/02: Avoid 9/11 overdose: Give blood to begin "September of Service," SOS
08/28/02: From Doubleday to strikeday: Baseball's collective anxiety attack
08/23/02: Should she or shouldn't she?: An alternative view on treating menopause with HRT
08/16/02: Cooking up defenses against germ warfare
08/02/02: Medicine, crime and canines
07/26/02: Lies, pathologic lies and the Palestinians
07/19/02: Medicare Drug Follies as in "now you see it, now you don't"
07/12/02: Anti-Profiling: A New Medically False Belief System
07/08/02: Don't procrastinate, vaccinate!
06/28/02: The scientific advances on the safe and effective deployment of DDT are being ignored, or denied. Why?
06/21/02: Sex and the system: In seeking healthcare men are different from women
06/14/02: The FDA, drug companies and life-saving drugs: Who's the fox and who's the hen now?
06/07/02: Medical Privacy Lost: A hippo on the healthcare back!
05/24/02: To clean up America's game: A (soggy) ground rule
05/10/02: Free speech is good medicine
05/03/02: Medicine's Vietnam
04/26/02: Attack on alternative medicine could lead to alternative lawsuits
04/12/02: Insure the 'crazies'?
04/09/02: No Time for Litmus Tests: In War We Need a Surgeon General and NIH, CDC, and FDA Directors
04/02/02: The scoop on soot: A dirty rotten shame?
03/22/02: Too many beautiful minds to waste: The first annual Caduceus Movie
03/15/02: Terror and transformation: Defense essential for health & state of mind
03/08/02: Diagnosis: Delusional
03/06/02: The great matzah famine
03/01/02: Is new Hippocratic Oath hypocritical?
02/15/02: Why the recent moaning about cloning?
02/08/02: Searching for Dr. Strangelove
01/15/02: Score one for the value of human life
01/04/02: Medical-legal-financial wake-up call
12/28/01: Who's afraid of a 'dirty bomb'?
12/21/01: End of medicine?
12/14/01: More heroes: Docs deserve a little credit after 9/11
11/16/01: Do we need 'Super Smallpox Saturdays'?
11/09/01: Why the post-9-11 health care debate will never be the same
11/01/01: Common sense good for our mental health
10/26/01: Your right to medical privacy --- even in terror time
10/12/01: Failed immigration policy ultimately bad for nation's mental health: Enemy within leads to epidemic of jumpy nerves
09/28/01: Can legal leopards change their spots: A treat instead of a trick
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty
08/30/01: Shut down this government CAFE
08/23/01: School Bells or Jail Cells?
08/15/01: Time to take coaches to the woodshed
08/10/01: Blood, Guts & Glory: The Stem of the Stem Cell controversy

© 2002