PHARMA/POLICY/POLITICS/PHYSICIANS: Tierney with some optimism on the DEA’s war on doctors

Writing (unfortunately behind the fire-wall) in the NYT, John Tierney attacks the Republicans as being the Party of Pain. With their attempts to stop the Oregon assisted suicide law, and the relentless attack of the DEA on pain doctors, the Republican conservative Christian establishment that captured the DOJ in 2001 continues to defy rationality. Tierney is hopeful, however, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Oregon’s favor.

Of course we never needed to engage in this ridiculous vendetta against pain doctors anyway. In his harrowing long and excellent issue brief on the subject Ron Libby at Cato points out that Oxy wasn’t that big a deal anyway

A final problem with the DEA’s claims of an OxyContin epidemic is the agency’s inflated estimate of risk of death. In 2000 physicians wrote 7.1 million prescriptions for oxycodone products without aspirin or Tylenol, 5.8 million of them for OxyContin.55 According to the DEA’s own autopsy data, there were 146 "OxyContin-verified deaths" that year, and 318 "OxyContin-likely deaths," for a total of 464 "OxyContin-related deaths."56 That amounts to a risk of just 0.00008 percent, or eight deaths per 100,000 OxyContin prescriptions 2.5 "verified," and 5.5 "likely-related." Even those figures are calculated only after taking the DEA’s troubling conclusions about causation at face value.

So this is just a classic case of the DEA acting like the drunk looking for his keys under the lamp-post because that’s where the light is. And who suffers? Obviously the doctors in jail or ruined. And it’s not a issue for just a few pain doctors. Libby points out that between one in five and one in three pain doctors has been investigated by the DEA or local authorities. Would you keep doing your job if there was a one in three chance that you’d be investigated, maybe have your assets seized, and possibly be sent to jail for very long time just for doing it?

And why is it being done? Well the DOJ and local police departments get to keep all the money from asset forfeiture. In other words this is essentially theft with patients, doctors and the taxpayer picking up the tab

Tierney hopes that there’ll be a resolution to this:

The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for patients and their doctors – including, I hope, some of the ones in prison for violating the federal legal theory that has now been rejected by the court. The doctors should go free, and Republicans in the White House and Congress should restrain the drug warriors who locked them up. When this year’s budget is drawn up, it’s the D.E.A.’s turn to feel pain.

These loonatics need to be stopped and whatever my political differences with Tierney and the Cato crowd I applaud them for getting this in the public eye. Unfortunately I think he’s being far too hopeful that any good will come of this given the number of theocratic fascists social conservatives  still in the Administration and heading to the Supreme Court, and the current DOJ attempt to promote laws already overthrown by a (slightly) more liberal Superme Court.