Category Archives: Pain Advocates

How did we get here?

pillflagThe numbers are staggering: in the United States, the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioids has more than tripled in the past decade, resulting in nearly 15,000 fatalities in 2008 alone and now accounting for more than 40 deaths every single day – not to mention the fact that estimated annual health care costs from this epidemic are as high as $72.5 billion.

How did we get here?

In the latest issue of Emergency Medicine News, Dr. Leon Gussow, a physician and editor of The Poison Review blog, examines how opioid analgesics – once feared as dangerous medications with high risk for addiction and overdose – became the drug class most frequently prescribed in the U.S., with four million patients a year receiving scripts for these powerful medications.

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Pain advocacy group shuts doors amid Senate probe

A U.S. Senate investigation into financial ties between producers of prescription painkillers and organizations that champion such drugs was announced Tuesday, just after the American Pain Foundation, the nation’s largest organization for pain patients, said it would shut down. The group said in a statement on its website that its closure was due to “irreparable economic circumstances.”

APF – which received 90 percent of its $5 million in funding in 2010 from the drug and medical-device industry – came under fire in December over its ties to pharmaceutical companies.

The Senate investigation was launched amid concerns that doctors and consumers aren’t getting accurate information about the risks of powerful opiate painkillers. According to the New York Times, pharmaceutical companies that received notice of the probe include OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma; Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes Percocet; and Johnson & Johnson, which markets Duragesic.

APF – which was also sent a letter – claims on its website that “misguided state and federal policies are impeding access to appropriate and reasonable medical care for people struggling with pain, and deterring even the most compassionate medical providers from treating anyone with pain conditions.”

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Tougher pill rules pit pain patients against “junkies”

In many areas of the nation struggling with prescription painkiller addiction, measures are being implemented to tighten licensing board rules on treating pain patients. In Washington state, this crackdown has prompted a number of doctors and clinics to stop taking new chronic pain patients who are already on opiates, and in some cases to cut off current pain patients, according to this article. While the new rules don’t apply to patients with injuries, surgery, cancer or people who are dying, there has already been pushback. Some doctors say the rules are too burdensome, while pain patients say they’re being denied the medicines they have come to rely on. Others say the stricter rules will drive desperate pain patients to seek illegal pills on the black market or try risky alternatives.

But the real point of contention here seems to be one of perception. Pain patients don’t like to be perceived as “junkies” – “it’s no fun to go down to one of these druggie centers and stand in line with all these guys with tattoos and pee in a bottle,” one man says in the article. And yet, the perspective of these so-called “junkies” isn’t included. I can guarantee that if it were, this would be a different story. The 25-year-old kid who got started on Oxy at 15 doesn’t want the junkie life to be his reality, any more than the pain patient wishes to be in pain (or, if they admitted it, to be hooked on these powerful medications).

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Take action: UW Pain and Policy Group

Last week we wrote about the University of Wisconsin’s Pain and Policy Group, which lobbies for the de-regulation of narcotic pain medicine. The group has come under fire for receiving millions of dollars of funding from companies like Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, according to a new investigation by Journal Sentinel/MedPage.

Some advocacy groups are now calling on Chancellor Biddy Martin to shut down the group. Here’s what to do if you’d like to weigh in:

  1. Email the chancellor or call (608) 262-9946. Here is a sample letter from Pete Jackson, the president of Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids.
  2. Call your U.S. and Wisconsin legislative offices: Sen. Herb Kohl, (202) 224-5653; Sen. Ron Johnson, (202) 224-5325. To find your U.S. Congressional Representative’s office, enter your zip code here. To find your Wisconsin state legislators, go here.
  3. Explain to the staffer who answers the phone that you’’re calling about an article that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on April 2 about UW’’s Pain and Policy Study Group.
  4. If the staffer is unfamiliar with the article, ask them for their email address so you can send them the link to it.
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Univ. research defends big pharma, aids addiction epidemic

The medical school at the University of Wisconsin conducts research in favor of pharmaceutical companies in exchange for millions of dollars of funding from companies like Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, found a new investigation by Journal Sentinel/MedPage. Beginning in 2006, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report connecting deaths from prescription drugs to a 500 percent increase in prescriptions, the university began issuing their own warnings against any attempt to increase regulation of the drugs. According to the investigation, the school’s reports liberalized the prescribing practices of highly-addictive Schedule II narcotics and may have directly influenced the addiction epidemic currently raging in the U.S.

Some advocacy groups are now calling on Chancellor Biddy Martin to shut down UW’s Pain and Policy Group, which lobbies for the de-regulation of narcotic pain medicine. If you’d like to weigh in, email the chancellor or call (608) 262-9946. Here is a