Thursday, October 02, 2003

War On Pain Patients

We can discuss the reasons for it, but the fact is uncontroversial: the U.S. government has declared war against pain patients, and the doctors who treat them. Whether it is medical marijuana or OxyContin, the government has decided that it must exert its power over its citizens who fail to obey its arbitrary rules.

Over the last few years medical science has rediscovered the fact that intractable pain can almost always be effectively treated by opioid pain killers, if the dosage is titrated (adjusted) to the level that works in each individual patient. In some patients, that dosage is very much higher than a single, minimum dosage pill. That brings medical science into conflict with that holy of holies, the war on drugs. A patient on high doses of potent painkillers might discover that, thanks to the war on drugs, the government has created a scarcity that has the effect of creating a market for these painkillers that is willing to pay an incredibly high price for these medications. Perhaps understandably, some of these patients give in to the temptation to divert some of their medication to the black market. These few patients give the government all the evidence thay need to imprison the doctors who wrote the prescriptions in the first place. It may be unfair, it may be immoral, it may be wrong, but that's exactly what's going on in prosecutions like that against Dr. William Hurwitz.
Dr. William E. Hurwitz, 57, was named in a 49-count indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. He was accused of conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances, drug trafficking resulting in death and serious bodily injury, drug trafficking, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and health care fraud.
If you read the rest of the article you will find that Dr. Hurwitz is a dangerous criminal who should be put behind bars for life. But if you read what some of his peers, the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, say about this case:
The Administration delivered on its threat to treat doctors "like the Taliban" last Thursday when federal prosecutors indicted and imprisoned William Hurwitz, M.D. of McLean, VA., for prescribing legal pain relief supervised and approved by the Virginia Board of Medicine.

Trial attorneys think doctors should pay dearly for abuse of medication by patients after they leave the doctors' offices. But why is Bush Administration government jailing doctors for the misdeeds of their patients?

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi declared to a reporter that "our office will try our best to root out (certain doctors) like the Taliban. Stay tuned." And earlier this month, the President pointed to physician prosecutions as the example of how he wants to pursue terrorists.
They are not going to be satisfied with just a few doctors, either. In a more thoughtful news piece in a local paper, another local doctor reveals that he is in denial about his own impending fate:
[Dr.] Statkus said: "They are busy prosecuting physicians and not individual drug addicts. I don't know where their focus is, but it needs to [be] redirected."

[Dr.] Statkus doesn't believe he is next on the hit list. "I was once told by a DEA agent they were going to get the top five prescribers of each area," Statkus said. "But my lawyers have told me they are backing off of us. They are going to be pretty busy with Billy (Hurwitz), I imagine, for a while."
But the feds have time. After they are through with "Billy," they will be coming after the next doctor on their list. I can only hope and pray that they don't come after mine.