PHARMA: Probably another false start from the DEA

The black stone that resides in the chest of DEA administrator Karen Tandy in the place where the rest of us have a heart must have some gravel chipping off today. The DEA allegedly has revised its rules on prescribing pain-killers:

Yesterday, DEA Administrator Karen Tandy said the agency had been wrong in limiting the multiple prescriptions and had made the tough decision to reverse course. She said the DEA received more than 600 comments from doctors, patients and others about its policies on narcotic pain killers, many of them strongly opposed to the agency’s position on limiting refills.

But basically this is a tiny move—allowing multiple prescription refills for those in chronic pain, but only by doctors who the DEA considers not to be in violation of their unwritten laws. After all, 2 years ago—right in the middle of William Hurwitz’s trial when his defense was about to introduce them—they introduced some similar guidelines they’d worked on with pain specialists for two years. So what happened then?  Well given the choice of allowing rational behavior, even according to guidelines they developed and allegedly agreed with, and putting a doctor treating the chronically ill in jail. Guess which one they took?

The agency briefly posted the guidelines on its Web site in 2004 but then pulled them down and disavowed them.

Siobhan Reynolds from PRN is rightly, rightly suspicious

But Siobhan Reynolds, who created the Pain Relief Network several years ago to help defend pain doctors who she said were being unfairly arrested and prosecuted, disagreed and said the new DEA policy has changed little. "Ms. Tandy states here, as she has on many occasions, that doctors need not fear criminal prosecution as long as they practice medicine in conformity with what these drug cops think is ‘appropriate,’ " Reynolds said. "If that isn’t a threat, it will certainly pass for one within the thoroughly intimidated medical community.”

The story is that chronic pain is massively under-treated in this country, and opiates are the most effective way of dealing with that pain. Yet as I pointed out over at Spot-on the mad Calvinists who run our criminal justice system care not a whit. 

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