Monday, August 19, 2013

Doctors of Doom

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin 8/15 in the Miami Herald and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Morin's cartoon was in response to a call that those individuals caught using drugs and were non-violent should not be imprisoned.  I'm using it here to look at the other side of the equation:  the doctors who over-prescribe (or sell prescriptions) and pharmacies who over-dispense (or sell the drugs).  Shouldn't they bear some responsibility?

Yes, Michael Jackson's doctor is currently on trial for his part in the over-dose death of the pop star, but he was more of an employee of Jackson and felt compelled to keep his boss doped up.  But this trial is somewhat rare.  In fact, there are almost no other cases like it, yet people continue to overdose either due to poor medical management or addiction.  The drug involved?  Oxycontin.

The Los Angeles Times did a remarkable series of articles on the issue over the past year.  A good example of that series can be found here with links to the others in the series.

Very little happened as a result of that series of articles, which I found puzzling.  Well, on Friday the Times published an editorial which indicates that at least the state legislature is looking at the issue.

Prescription drug abuse has grown steadily over the last decade, to the point where overdoses send more than 1 million Americans to emergency rooms annually. Although there's no simple way to guard against people abusing many of these drugs, considering the legitimate role they can play in treatment, it would help for doctors and regulators to have better data about the drugs that are being prescribed and dispensed, to whom and by whom.

Until now, lawmakers' focus has been on improving a state Justice Department database that collects records from pharmacists and doctors of all the dangerous prescription drugs they dispense, along with a monitoring program that lets doctors check what drugs their patients have already obtained before prescribing new ones. Both efforts have been so cash-starved, however, they're barely functional.   [Emphasis added]

The problem is a difficult one, admittedly.  Yes, there are some out-and-out crooks who are selling the drugs to users and dealers.  That's the easy part.

The hard part comes with patients who suffer chronic pain from such causes as spinal injuries or fibromyalgia.  The pain is real, something is needed to ameliorate that pain.  Many times the patient cannot be trusted to understand the incredible danger they are in by relying simply on that magic little pill to take the edge off the pain.

It's a tough road, but the state and federal governments need to put some money into such a monitoring program and to at least report the problem to the state licensing boards for further investigation.


Post a Comment

<< Home