Prescription for Pain: DEA Agents Denied Pain Medication

Prescription for Pain: Patients denied medication | First Coast News

I’m sure I’m not the only pain patient happy to see some perpetrators of our misery suffer from it themselves: “the DEA’s own agents have been denied pain medication at pharmacies.”

A public health crisis in Florida has been created by shutting down the state’s pill mills.Patients with legitimate doctor prescriptions for pain medicine are now routinely turned away at pharmacies.

They aren’t drug addicts. They are regular people who are suffering from chronic pain, some even battling cancer. Some are hospice patients.

First Coast News started investigating this in 2013 and since then the problem has only gotten worse. Local doctors and pharmacists say it has become its own public health crisis and has even lead some to commit suicide.  

Johnson is one of countless Floridians living with chronic pain. For the past decade he says he’s has been battling an autoimmune disease that makes life without pain medication practically unbearable.

Two of the medications he takes are controlled substances, and while he has legitimate prescriptions prescribed by his doctor, he says getting them filled has become a nightmare.

“The worst time I ever had I had to go to 12 pharmacies in one day.

On more than one occasion he says he has gone through withdrawal.

Dr Sanford Silverman: “There is a tremendous amount of finger pointing going back and forth.

The DEA has maintained publicly they do not restrict any of these substances and this is not something they are involved with or intend to do, and that has been their policy all along. We hear from the pharmacists that is not true…

The patients pay for it, and patients have died.

Dr. Mark Rubenstein with the Florida Medical Association has testified on behalf of the DEA in pill mill cases.

I can’t help but wonder how much he is getting paid to turn his back on pain patients. He is another of the “Interventional Pain Physicians”, promoting dangerous (potentially paralyzing) “treatments” like epidurals and surgery instead of opioid medication.

By limiting access to pain relieving medications, he gives have little choice but to submit to these procedures.

What has happened is from trying to eliminate pill mills and from trying to curb opioid abuse, overdose deaths, problems with drug diversion through all these regulations, now the pendulum has shifted other way where we are having true access problem for patients who have legitimate medical needs.”

“We will regularly have maybe 30 people a day who we can’t fill prescriptions for,” said Napier. “We had two patients I know of who got tired of the battle and committed suicide…I know the DEA says they don’t set any quotas. My wholesaler says they set quotas in response to DEA pressure”

“As pharmacists we are supposed to help people solve their problems, help their healthcare, not ration medication. That’s what we are doing now, rationing all controlled substances.”

Under pressure from the DEA he says he created a nine item checklist to decide whose prescriptions his pharmacy can fill.

This may be similar to the one Walgreen’s implemented in 2013:  Walgreens’ “secret checklist” reveals controversial new policy on pain pills

“It’s just continuously gotten tighter and tighter on the supply side from the wholesaler. Only 20 percent of my medicines can be controlled substances.”

At his pharmacy in order to get a prescription for a controlled substance like morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone filled you must be over the age of 35, undergo a criminal background check and your doctor must be vetted.

“Especially towards the end of the month I have a lot of people say my pharmacy is out of it, and I try to explain every pharmacy is out of it because every pharmacy has a quota. Once you meet a quota you are done.”

Special Agent Mia Ro with the DEA’s Miami Field Division says the DEA is aware of the problem and concerned, and even its own agents have been denied pain medication at pharmacies.

HURRAY! No wonder this is finally getting attention.

Ro is adamant the DEA does not set quotas for how much a distributor can sell to a pharmacy or how much a pharmacy can purchase from the wholesaler.

“I want pharmacies to know they don’t have to fear the DEA for doing their jobs for filling legitimate patient’s prescriptions.”

This is in direct contradiction to what is actually happening. He speaks as though he is unaware of the egregiously aggressive actions of his agency.

Congresswoman Corrine Brown says she wants answers… she is going to ask House leadership to have hearing to address the problem.

“DEA has been the least responsive agency I have worked with in my entire career. We have gone to the extreme. We don’t want pill mills, but we want people who have legitimate needs to be filled. Period.”

“Part of the problem is the DEA is not only a law enforcement agency, but they are also a regulatory body so they have an unprecedented amount of power,” said Johnson.

This may be the crux of the problem: too much power is concentrated in this agency with very little oversight.  When an organization is allowed to make the rules AND enforce them, there’s no limit to overreach. Our government is based on the separation of powers precisely to prevent this kind of abuse.

Johnson is now on a mission to fight for patient’s rights. He created the website and within a few weeks already has hundreds of supporters. He’s urging supporters to sign a petition he started to get the White House to address the problem.  

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