Common ground sought on pain
■ Participants hope for more open dialogue between doctors and the DEA.
By Andis Robeznieks — Posted July 5, 2004
Chicago -- Doctors and law enforcement officials met to discuss prescription drug diversion at a forum on pain treatment and drug abuse at the AMA Annual Meeting.
"We probably wouldn't be in this room if it wasn't for OxyContin," said AMA Delegate Michael Miller, MD, a Wisconsin psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine. "My hope is that this generates more dialogue."
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Deputy Administrator Michele Leonhart said her agency is aware that many doctors feel like they're "between a rock and a hard place" when it comes to that treatment.
"The DEA does not intend to play doctor," she said, adding that it also doesn't want to deny deserving patients access to drugs to treat their pain and improve their quality of life.
She said the DEA arrested 50 doctors in 2003, and these individuals are accused of writing prescriptions for their own use or in exchange for money, sex or illegal drugs.
Council on Scientific Affairs Chair Melvyn Sterling, MD, an Orange, Calif., internist and palliative care specialist, asked the DEA to show leadership in dimming the spotlight that goes with the arrest of a doctor. "That kind of publicity is punishment," he said. "That doctor's life has been damaged, and that damage is irreversible."
Miami psychiatrist and pain specialist Albert Ray, MD, an American Academy of Pain Medicine delegate, said issues contributing to the problem include inadequate pain education in medical school and faulty solutions proposed by the DEA, legislators and insurance companies.