Tennessee Pain Clinics to Stop Using Opioids — Pain News Network – April 27, 2016 – By Pat Anson, Editor
One of the largest healthcare systems in Tennessee will no longer prescribe long term opioid pain medication to patients at two of its pain management clinics.
Although the CDC guidelines are voluntary and meant only for primary care physicians, many doctors around the country are adopting them and either weaning their patients off opioids or cutting them off entirely.
“This change was considered for several months in response to changing regulations and increasing national opiate addiction rates, and we began notifying physicians and patients of this decision in early April,” Jerry Askew, Tennova Healthcare’s vice president of external relations said in a statement.
Tennova Healthcare is managed by the Sisters of Mercy, an organization of Roman Catholic nuns.
Correction: I’ve been notified that
“The Sisters of Mercy have never run Tennova, it was once owned by Catholic Health Partners but is now owned by a huge for-profit corporation out of Nashville. There are only a few nuns left at the facility where the pain clinic was located and I occasionally see them at the grocery store (there is a convent on site). They are sweet, caring women who would never want to see any of their patients in pain”
Tennova operates a chain of 17 hospitals in Tennessee, but its new opioid policy only applies to patients at two pain clinics affiliated with Tennova hospitals in Knoxville and Turkey Creek
“After 30 days of your receipt of this letter, we no longer plan to provide long-term opiate pain medication to our patients,” Tennova said in a letter to patients.
30 days is not enough time to be tapered down from high opioid doses, so they are essentially throwing all their patients with the most pain into withdrawal.
Forcing patients into withdrawal should be considered malpractice. It’s easily avoidable, but it takes weeks or months of tapering slowly to prevent withdrawal.
“While pain medication therapy is widely used, non-opiate alternatives can be equally effective and can be generally safer for the patients who use them.
I keep hearing this statement, but it’s absolutely false. Non-opioid alternatives are by no means “equally effective” for pain, but rather best used as an adjunct therapy to reduce, not eliminate, the doses of opioids.
The Center in Knoxville will continue to provide effective and compassionate treatment with non-opiate options including
- non-opioid pain medications,
- interventional procedures such as injections and radiofrequency ablations;
- referral to neurology and spine specialists;
- physical and aquatic therapy;
- weight loss strategies;
- massage therapy; and
- lifestyle counseling programs.”
None of these treatments are nearly as effective as opioids, and forcing every patient to use these helpful therapies instead of effective medication is far from compassionate.
But many of those alternative treatments do not work and are not covered by insurance, according to a recent survey of over 2,000 patients by Pain News Network and the International Pain Foundation.
Essentially, access to all the suddenly miraculously effective alternative treatments is controlled by money. If you’re not wealthy enough, this means you will not get any pain treatment at all.
Three out of four patients said over-the-counter pain relievers did not help them at all and
over half said non-opioid prescription drugs like Lyrica and Cymbalta are also ineffective.
Douglas Varney, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “We are succeeding in reducing the number of prescriptions being written.
The goal seems to be reducing prescriptions above all else, without counting people are left with crippling pain . This is a ridiculous metric to use for pain treatment.
We have helped more people into treatment and recovery and rallied a new generation of Tennesseans to live a life free of addiction.”
Treatment. in this case, refers to addiction treatment, not pain treatment. This is happening in pain clinics around the country.
Instead of treating pain, they treat all patients taking opioids as addicts. They measure their success by sending people away without prescriptions.
But patient advocates say the crackdown on painkillers is unfairly focused on pain sufferers, not on the addicts who abuse opioid medication.
“I am seeing literally hundreds of reports from people who are being denied renewal of opioid meds which work well for them and are frequently the only medical treatments that give them any quality of life.
Doctors are giving up their pain management practices for fear of prosecution by the DEA,” said Richard Lawhern, PhD, who became an advocate after his wife developed trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder.
“I am convinced that the CDC guidelines are creating what we will later recognize to be a wave of patient suicides due to resurgent pain and hopelessness, as well as a surge in patients seeking out street drugs because they cannot function without pain relief and are being forced by their doctors to do so.”
In recent weeks, at least 14 people died and dozens were hospitalized in California after ingesting counterfeit pain medication made with illicit fentanyl, a powerful and deadly analgesic. Some of the victims were pain patients.
This is just another casualty of our wrongheaded approach to addiction. These deaths, however, will be counted as just more overdose deaths deliberately conflating desperate acts of pain patients with the recreational activities of drug abusers.
Fake pain pills are being sold by dealers in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas, and have also been intercepted at the California-Mexico border.