Patients ask feds to feel their pain
■ The physician who organized the gathering of patients with chronic pain hopes it planted seeds for a grassroots movement.
By Andis Robeznieks — Posted May 10, 2004
A three-day gathering of chronic-pain patients in Washington, D.C., was marked by conferences, rallies and meetings with members of Congress. Attendance wasn't overwhelming, but the Rev. Ronald Myers, MD, said that wasn't the point.
"The purpose wasn't to get a million people on the mall," the Tchula, Miss.-based family physician said; it was mobilizing pain patients to persuade Congress to hold hearings on the ill effects of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's anti-diversion program for prescription drugs.
Dr. Myers organized the meetings to help establish leadership roles for patients, which he thinks will be more successful in reforming the program than physician-led efforts.
"If you're a Congressman, who are you going to respond to: a couple hundred doctors or several thousand pain patients and their families?" he asked.
On April 20, the one hundred or so participants met with several members of Congress. Dr. Myers noted that Bennie Thompson (D, Miss.) and Ron Paul, MD (R, Texas), were among the most receptive.
Dr. Paul would probably support Dr. Myers' call for hearings, his spokesman Jeff Deist said.
"It's an intimidating environment for doctors, so it would be good to shine a public light on the DEA's actions," Deist said. "The sinister atmosphere that has been created has prevented doctors from prescribing medications like OxyContin because they're afraid of criminal prosecution. ... My boss is always chagrined at how doctors let themselves be pushed around."
A former Houston ob-gyn, Dr. Paul writes a weekly column, "Texas Straight Talk." His April 19 column was "The federal war on pain relief."
"The sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship is being destroyed by federal bureaucrats, who have turned the drug war into a war on pain relief," Dr. Paul wrote. "Americans suffering from chronic pain and their doctors are the real victims of this unprincipled and medically unsound federal campaign."
DEA representative Rogene Waite said the agency arrested 50 doctors in fiscal 2003 for improper prescribing.