IS THE DEA PRO-PAIN POSITION
PROMOTING EUTHENASIA AND SUICIDE? [Part 1]
See also: IS THE DEA PRO-PAIN POSITION
PROMOTING EUTHENASIA AND SUICIDE? [Part 2]
Why Is The DEA Hounding This Doctor?
The feds are cracking down on pain specialists, and doctors--and their patients--are crying foul
By MARGOT ROOSEVELT
On a cold morning last April... five agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) walked into the office of Dr. Richard Nelson, a ... neurologist. For six hours, they combed through his records, seizing 72 patient charts and confiscating his drug-dispensing permit. The charge? None so far, but the assumption is that he is suspected of improperly prescribing narcotic drugs.
Despite a distinguished professional record spanning more than four decades, Nelson has had to spend $20,000 on lawyers, fearing that the government will indict him if it turns out that one of his patients has misused his medicine. "My practice is sunk," says the 73-year-old physician, who specializes in chronic-pain treatment. "I can't even write a prescription for Tylenol 3 if someone has a migraine."
The DEA, for its part, says it was acting on tips from "several individuals in the community and pharmacies ... regarding suspicious prescriptions," according to a spokesman, who declined to elaborate.
Over the past six years, more than 5,600 physicians from Alaska to West Virginia have been investigated on suspicion of "drug diversion."
Ultimately, it may be the patients who get hurt most, because a growing number of doctors, frightened of government scrutiny, are avoiding the use of powerful narcotics such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Dilaudid. "It is impossible to be sure that a patient is not diverting any of his medication," says Dr. Thomas Stinson, a Medford, Mass., anesthesiologist who is closing his 20-year practice to new pain patients. "I fear I might be targeted."
In the past year, hundreds of sufferers have contacted the Baltimore-based American Pain Foundation. "They've gone to every physician within hundreds of miles and can't get someone to prescribe to them," says executive director Will Rowe. In some cases, patients with high-dosage prescriptions are turned away by drug stores, which are also subject to DEA investigations. "It's demeaning," says Mary Vargas, a Maryland attorney whose spine was injured in an auto accident. "Pharmacists tell me they don't have the medication...
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