The founder of an advocacy group that seeks to reduce the prescribing of opioid pain medication is calling the drugs “heroin pills” and says patients may not be able to trust doctors who prescribe them.
This is an old brainwashing technique: paint all the people with alternative views as untrustworthy.
Andrew Kolodny, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, appeared on C-SPAN this weekend to speak about the Obama administration’s efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and the increasing use of heroin. He also answered calls from viewers, including one woman who recently started taking a pain medication for arthritis and was worried about becoming addicted.
“In general, if someone’s calling me and asking me about this medication, as a physician my inclination would be to tell you to listen to your doctor and to trust your doctor,” Kolodny told the woman.
“Unfortunately when it comes to opioids, we’re in a situation where many of the prescribers have very bad information about these drugs, they’re really underestimating how addictive and how risky they are and overestimating how helpful they can be.
So I wish I could tell you that you should trust your doctor and talk to your doctor about this, but that may not be the case.
Kolodny is saying he’s much smarter than other doctors. He claims his opinions are facts, and that all the doctors who prescribe opioids are simply ignorant.
This is a really difficult situation. We have doctors even prescribing to teenagers and parents not recognizing that the doctor has just essentially prescribed the teenager the equivalent of a heroin pill.”
Kolodny also compared opioid pain medication to heroin during an addiction conference Friday at the University of Richmond.
On C-SPAN, Kolodny said many patients taking opioids for chronic pain mistakenly believe the drugs are helping them, when “the vast majority of them are not doing well.”
This is contrast to the vast number of patients taking opioids who say they are the only thing that works and saying these medications are the only thing standing between them and suicide.
“What may be happening for many of them is that the opioid is actually treating withdrawal pain. They may not really be getting pain relief when you’re on a consistent dose over a very long period of time,” Kolodny said.
Kolodny doesn’t seem to know that chronic pain is different than withdrawal pain – just like he says that opioid pain medication is equivalent to heroin.
Kolodny and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) are drawing new attention because of a significant role the organization appears to be playing in the drafting of opioid prescribing guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As Pain News Network has reported, at least five PROP board members, including Kolodny, are on CDC advisory panels that are developing the guidelines. A link to PROP literature recommending “cautious, evidence-based opioid prescribing” can also be found — unedited — on the CDC’s website.
Many pain patients are worried they won’t be able to obtain opioids if the guidelines are adopted. In an online survey of over 2,000 patients by Pain News Network and the Power of Pain Foundation, 95 percent said the guidelines and other government regulations discriminate against them
In a conference call last week with stakeholders, CDC officials said the guidelines are being modified to emphasize that they are mostly intended for new patients and that patients currently taking opioids will still have access to the drugs.
“One of the most effective medications for opioid addiction is a drug called buprenorphine or Suboxone,” said Kolodny, who is chief medical officer for Phoenix House, a non-profit that operates addiction treatment clinics.
Ironically, buprenorphine is an opioid that is used to treat both addiction and pain.
So it’s OK to take an opioid for withdrawal, but not for pain?
Although praised by Kolodny and other addiction specialists as a tool to wean addicts off opioids, some are fearful the drug is overprescribed and misused. Many addicts have learned they can use buprenorphine to ease their withdrawal symptoms and some consider it more valuable than heroin as a street drug.
According to one estimate, about half of the buprenorphine obtained through legitimate prescriptions is either being diverted or used illicitly.