Not a War on Patients

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

In the name of preventing the diversion of prescription painkillers, the DEA is causing unneeded suffering in America’s nursing homes.

Meanwhile, here’s an email I received today from a pain patient in Tennessee.

Hi Mr. Balko. First, thank you so very, very,  much for being the “voice” for all of us chronic pain disease people. I have a rare disease called RSD/CRPS. It is rated the highest of all pain diseases on the Mcgill Pain Scale. It is rated higher in pain than child birth or the loss of a digit. I am on a fentanyl patch and other meds as well. I have recently been informed that the pharmacies near me will no longer fill opiate pain meds! My husband has to drive all over the state to find a place that will fill my medicine. I would be willing to talk to you if it will help me and others with the nightmare we are living. Again, thank you for what you are trying to do. We need you.

After my Huffington Post series on chronic pain, I created a file for emails from pain patients who can’t find treatment. It’s up to 300 messages.

But they must all be lying. Because the drug czar assures me such people don’t exist.

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25 Responses to “Not a War on Patients”

  1. #1 |  SJE | 

    The patients don’t exist, just like the wrongly executed don’t exist.

  2. #2 |  MikeZ | 

    If you have gotten 300 since your article, I wonder how many thousands Mr. Kerlikowski has received. I’m sure that retraction to his article is coming any day now.

  3. #3 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Fuck. Countdown to SWAT raid of old folks home in 3…2…1.

    Complete with shooting of companion dogs, multiple tazerings on octogenarians in wheelchairs, heart attacks, body slams of 85 pound grannies, fellating badges by media, kicking of sliver-haired heads, breaking of arms, etc.etc.etc.

  4. #4 |  Johnny Clamboat | 

    Is that the same czar that insists that there is no War on Citizens, er, I mean Drugs? “We’re not at war with people in this country,” cries the Drug Warrior.

  5. #5 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    For those of you who didn’t read Kerlikowski’s article “attacking” RB:

    All of us know someone who suffers from a substance use disorder — we are not at war with our own people.

    “–we are not at war with our own people.” I won’t bother to list evidence to the contrary.

    PS: Honey, I’m not “sleeping” with my secretary!

  6. #6 |  Swimmy | 

    The drug czar would probably brush this off anyway, since the imagery isn’t available in his mind the way the imagery of meth addicts is, so it’s important we all take the time to understand that denying treatment for a CRPS patient is literal torture.

    Go to the Wikipedia article for the disease and look at the picture of the amazing swelling that can occur. Google around for testimonials of the pain. And while you’re at it, look up some prison testimonials. If I were given the choice between weakly treated CRPS, an average prison term, or a series of waterboarding sessions, I would pick the waterboarding in a heartbeat. At least there’s some time away to recover and readjust, under that horror.

  7. #7 |  croaker | 

    It could be DEA with guns, it could be your own doctor with blatant incompetence and malpractice.

    This is your doctor on Obamacare. Any questions?

  8. #8 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    This is your doctor on Obamacare. Any questions?

    Death is a real option over having the state completely control your health. You say Obama Care ain’t about “completely controlling your health”? Riiiight. No way that could ever come to pass.

  9. #9 |  CyniCAl | 

    It’s not that those people don’t exist to Kerlikowski, it’s that they don’t MATTER.

  10. #10 |  Personanongrata | 

    Drug test the drug csar.

  11. #11 |  Bob | 

    But they must all be lying. Because the drug czar assures me such people don’t exist.

    Of course they don’t exist! They’re not in the “Plan” he’s using to do the bidding of his masters.

    Look at all these guys that are in the top posts. They all drink the same kool-aid. It’s part of the job description.

  12. #12 |  SJE | 

    The failure of the UK doctors to detect TB merely shows that doctors respond to incentives. In the UK, the incentive to control money means that doctors will go for the most likely diagnosis. The patient lacks the means to force the doctors to go the extra mile: i.e. changing the incentives. In the USA, the fear of malpractice lawsuits and fees for each test will lead every doctor to test for TB, run a CAT scan, etc for every lovesick teenage girl. Thats also a problem. In both cases, the doctor might not be doing the best thing for the patient.

    Back to drugs: even if all the doctors who were prosecuted from drug dealing were actually guilty (which I don’t believe), there is a strong incentive to under-prescribe drugs, which leads to outcomes dictated not by medical need, but by other factors.

  13. #13 |  30 year lawyer | 

    The Durg Czar is the one doing the lying.

    But remember that he heads an INDUSTRY that is too big to fail. 100’s of thousands of government and civilian employees are sustained by the “war on drugs.” Ending the war would cause another recession.

    America can’t afford financially to declare victory and go home. Remember that drugs are MORE available on US streets now than ever and CHEAPER too. Ever $ spent in the war on drugs has been a small victory for the enemy (whoever they are).

  14. #14 |  Difster | 

    Radley, I think you should do a documentary about it, put it on YouTube and link to documented affidavits of the people you interview. For those that have web cams, you could even go low budget and interview them from their homes.

    Get a few videos of people going from place to place trying to get prescriptions filled.

  15. #15 |  StrangeOne | 

    @13 30 year lawyer.

    Seeing as how all of those “jobs” are funded through tax collection, I doubt ending the drug war would cause a recession. Either taxes are lowered (LOL) and people get some money back to put in the economy. Or, the more likely outcome, is the government spends the money on something else. Either way is just the government spending other peoples money.

    Even without legalizing and taxing drugs, simply not putting people in prison would be a tremendous boon to the economy. Drug users keep their jobs, and the costs of keeping prisons open will go down by half. The only people who loose out are the drug warriors and the cartels, and its getting harder and harder to distinguish one from the other these days.

  16. #16 |  Cyto | 

    Hey Difster! Of course you realize that a video of someone going from place to place to get a prescription filled could be used by an ambitious prosecutor as evidence of a felony. As we’ve seen documented here, having a valid prescription is no defense against criminal charges by drug warriors.

  17. #17 |  Articles to Get You Through the Mid-Week » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] Radley Balko: The DEA’s Withholding of Medication from Chronic Pain Sufferers […]

  18. #18 |  croaker | 

    A solution that would get their attention is to ban all pain killers above the level of Advil to all drug warriors and their families. “Sorry, but you’re DEA and I don’t want to go to jail for prescribing you narcotics.”

  19. #19 |  SP | 

    Gil Kerlikowski is a confirmed idiot…Gil, find your gun, yet? How is it that the libs are the most oppressive of the two extremes? They will kill you and hurt you for your own good. Not that the right won’t violate your rights, either; however, it seems like the establishment lefties will tell you it is raining as they piss on your shoes. The right just tells you they are going to piss on your shoes and then do it.

    The war on drugs continues and is a big business, just like the homeland security ‘war of terror’ to keep us safe. “We’re not violating your rights, we’re keeping you safe. Paper’s please.”

  20. #20 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “But they must all be lying. Because the drug czar assures me such people don’t exist”

    Remind me again why I am being forced to pay Gil Kerlikowski’s salary.

    The U.S. will have a more humane approach to drugs when the last undercover narcotics agent is strangled with the entrails of the last drug czar (hyperbole alert!).

  21. #21 |  CyniCAl | 

    #15 | StrangeOne — “Seeing as how all of those “jobs” are funded through tax collection, I doubt ending the drug war would cause a recession.”

    omg, tax collection is soooooo 20th century … dontcha know that all respectable governments borrow money now?

  22. #22 |  CyniCAl | 

    #19 | SP — “How is it that the libs are the most oppressive of the two extremes?”

    I strongly recommend spending a year or two reading Mencius Moldbug at Unqualified Reservations.

  23. #23 |  Bobby Black | 

    On Valentine’s Day last year, a work accident crushed my left knee and fractured my L5 vertebrae, and ruptured and killed the disc. Two bulges in said disc are leaning hard on nerves and I mean wow, it freaking hurts. For 90 days i was given pain medication. Then cut off. Thanks to the pill bill like this douche bag wrote and my senator David “gimme a hooker and a bible Vitter”. The two doctors, one knee and one back doctor refused to be the ones to set themselves up to scrutiny by referring me to pain management. My life was hell for 6 months. they tried to make me go to Physical therapy while i was in tears, walking with 3 different stages of immobilizing casts and braces, with nothing for pain besides some stupid electrode thing that supposedly “scrambled the nerve signals for a few hours”, translated, not a damned thing.
    It took a lawyer four months to get a doctor to give me an MRI showing the actual damage and who would refer me to a Pain management clinic, wher ei wait every 28 days for a doctor visit, 180 dollars and a re-up on some pain meds and muscles relaxers. I sit and listen to old people who have to drive in from 30 minutes away, assisted, and dragging IV units, wheelchairs, all manner of walking devices and life sustaining equipment because their doctors can no longer just call in a refill. Cancer patients, infirm, young, old, walking and being wheeled in alike. All having to come in, pay, or have the insurance or medicaid pay 180 dollars a month PLUS the refills (which by the way restrict use of generics, jacking the prices) all to satisfy this douchecock’s fetish for making stupid laws to knee=jerk “problems” that only end up being worse than the problem was in the first place. Viva La Revolution!

  24. #24 |  John C. Randolph | 

    “Gil, find your gun, yet? ”

    Sorry, I’m not getting the reference. Did Eric Holder send it to Mexico or something?


  25. #25 |  Goober | 

    As a person who has experienced chronic, life altering pain and has seen that look of fear in my Doctor’s eyes when he knew that the best course of action was a narcotic pain killer, I can attest to the fact that doctors are afraid, and are in many cases unwilling, to prescribe medications that are in the best interest of their patients because of this stupid “war on drugs.”

    I wouldn’t have made it without the pills. Thank God my doctor was man enough to do the right thing. i know of people who’s doctors were not and the pain that they endured as a result.