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On this site I am going to make appeals and raise concerns about both parties if it applies to very serious medical issues. I am not pro or con any political party on this web site.

March 5, 2004 - The Drug War Chronicle (US Web)
The 2004 Federal Drug Strategy

Drug Czar Makes It Official - It's War on Pain Patients, Doctors

By Phillip S. Smith, Editor

Sample excerpts below:

"When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny."
Thomas Jefferson

The Bush administration took direct aim at America's pain patients and pain doctors as it unveiled its 2004 drug strategy Monday. For the first time, the national anti-drug strategy will explicitly target the use of prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes.

With an estimated 75 million Americans suffering from chronic pain according to the American Medical Association, pain patients and the doctors who prescribe for them will now be ground zero in the war on drugs.

The 2004 federal drug strategy codifies and expands on what has been an accelerating federal effort to limit access to powerful pain relievers. Last month, the DEA announced it was seeking to move the hugely popular opioid pain reliever hydrocodone [Anexsia®, Hycodan®, Hycomine®, Lorcet®, Lortab®, Tussionex®, Tylox®, Vicodin®, and Vicoprofen—MY INSERT] from Schedule III to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, which would greatly restrict patients' ability to obtain it. There has also been an ever-increasing number of federal prosecutions of doctors who prescribe pain medications, particularly opioids such as Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone). The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a doctors' organization committed to preserving doctor-patient privacy, last July identified more than 30 prosecutions of pain doctors, and more have occurred since then. The DEA, for its part, reported investigating more than 500 doctors last year over their prescribing practices.

"The non-medical use of prescription drugs has become an increasingly widespread and serious problem in this country, one that calls for immediate action," said John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office - www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov - or ONDCP) at a Monday press conference announcing this year's drug strategy. "The federal government is embarking on a comprehensive effort to ensure that potentially addictive medications are dispensed and used safely and effectively."

The crusade against prescription drug abuse is raising alarm bells among those concerned about its impact on the ability of people in real pain to get adequate treatment.

Even the staid American Medical Association expressed concern.

While the AMA praised the proposed crackdown on Internet pharmacies, it was much more cautious in embracing Walters' war on pill-poppers.

"Preventing prescription drug abuse is a vital goal; however, it is just as crucial to ensure that those in chronic pain have continued access to pain relief medications," said AMA trustee Rebecca Patchin, MD, in a statement Monday. "Some 75 million Americans experience chronic pain, and nearly one in 10 adults suffers from moderate to severe non-cancer pain. It is critical that in the rush to address drug abuse, we do not unintentionally discourage patients and physicians from appropriately treating chronic pain." The AMA would work with the federal government to seek "a balance between promoting pain relief and preventing prescription drug abuse," she added.

Other groups involved in pain relief work were not so confident of the federal government's good intentions. "It looks to me like the same strategy we've had all along," said AAPS head Dr. Jane Orient (www.aapsonline.org). "This persecution of pain patients is something that should frighten us all," she told DRCNet. "Drug Czar Walters talks about all these people abusing prescription drugs.

I know of patients here in Tucson who were in pain and took drugs from someone else's prescription because they couldn't get theirs filled.

Are they drug abusers?"

The impact of such a crackdown would have a disproportionate impact on those at the bottom of the social ladder, said Orient. "Even before this strategy was announced, there were patients who were desperate.

This will only make it worse. If you are poor and black and unemployed and uninsured, you may not get access to any drugs. I've seen emergency rooms that have signs saying, "We don't prescribe to frequent flyers," meaning folks who repeatedly show up in emergency rooms.

But they go there because they have nowhere else to go," she said.

Orient was also leery of efforts to go after Internet pharmacies and to extend prescription monitoring programs. "It is probably unwise to get your prescriptions over the Internet from people you don't know," she conceded, "but for us, attacks on free enterprise are a problem. As with the prescription monitoring, they appear to be saying it is necessary to crack down on everyone's freedom to get at this problem. But they are trying to do the impossible. It's like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. The fly gets away, but the sledgehammer does a lot of damage."

"We've seen this coming for a long time," said Siobhan Reynolds, director of the Pain Relief Network (www.painreliefnetwork.org), an organization of patients, family members, and others working to protect patients' access to adequate pain relief and physicians' ability to prescribe medically necessary amounts of opioid pain relievers. "The Justice Department and the DEA have come to believe that they regulate medicine. The drug czar is using this exaggerated and alarmist rhetoric about drug diversion in order to criminalize compassionate pain treatment," she told DRCNet. "They tried it against doctors in the criminal courts, but those cases are falling apart.

This is a last-ditch effort to push their agenda and get prescription drug monitoring nationwide so they can have an endless supply of patients and doctors to prosecute for their latest version of the drug war."

PRN and associated groups had already been lobbying Congress to hold hearings on the prosecutions of pain doctors, Reynolds said.

"The price
of freedom is
constant vigilance."
Thomas Jefferson

For more information and the full text of this article and other articles please go to: https://www.november.org/stayinfo/breaking2/2004Strategy.html

Write to your government representatives and tell them what you want for you and your loved ones. They will listen.

To Your Pain-Free Health!

Dr. J

Bank Towers, Tamiami Trail, Naples, FL
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