Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2003 / 19 Tishrei, 5764
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
The War on Legal Painkillers: Sen. Kerry owes an apology to the more than 48 million Americans who suffer chronic pain
Combat talk radio star Rush Limbaugh announced at the end of his broadcast
Friday, Oct. 10, that he will check into a rehab clinic to treat an
addiction to pain-killing drugs. Responding to a story published last week
by the National Enquirer, he told his millions of listeners "part of what
you've heard and read in the past week is correct."
"I am addicted to prescription pain medication," he said in his statement.
Limbaugh explained that he began taking prescription painkillers about five
or six years ago to ease pain following unsuccessful spinal surgery.
Sadly, at the Democratic candidates' debate, the previous Thursday night,
some Democrats thought they could score political points by treating a
serious medical problem humorously!
Discussing the high cost of drugs, Sen. John Kerry quipped: "In order to be
assured prescription drugs in this country, you could hire Rush Limbaugh's
housekeeper (laughter from crowd). . . or elect me President."
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) issued the
following statement in response to comments made by Sen. Kerry during the
Democratic debate on Oct. 9, 2003:
"Sen. Kerry owes an apology to the more than 48 million Americans who
suffer chronic pain. Few of them would see the humor in his flippant
remarks about a desperate patient's attempts to relieve a devastating
medical condition nor do we."
Substitute 'mental retardation' or 'cancer' in his remarks, and the level
of outrage would be voluminous and loud. According to the audience reaction
of laughter, the Democratic party that 'felt our pain' under Bill Clinton
now finds it fodder for jokes.
Courageous physicians are being prosecuted for prescribing legal pain
treatment. This 'war on drugs' has turned into a war on doctors and the
legal drugs they prescribe and the suffering patients who need the drugs to
attempt anything approaching a normal life. Patients are having difficulty
finding doctors to treat them as a result of misguided drug policy, law
enforcement, and overzealous prosecutions.
The result of recent prosecutions of dozens of leading pain specialists is
that doctors are afraid to prescribe opioids, and patients can't get the
drugs they so desperately need. Physicians are being threatened,
impoverished, delicensed, and imprisoned for prescribing in good faith with
the intention of relieving pain. And their patients have become the
collateral damage in this trumped-up war.
Some patients require very large doses, sometimes literally hundreds of
pills in each prescription a number that may seem alarming to people
unfamiliar with current treatment standards in pain management. Other
patients report that they have resorted to lying about being heroin addicts
in order to get pain medication at methadone clinics.
The situation has become so critical that AAPS has sent out a warning to
"If you're thinking about getting into pain management using opioids as
appropriate DON'T. Forget what you learned in medical school drug
agents now set medical standards."
If this continues, pain patients will be back in the Dark Ages of 'pain
clinics' that basically told the patients they had to learn to 'live with
the pain' except possibly if they had cancer and then they wouldn't have
to live with it for very long.
Prosecutors are hell-bent on targeting career-making, high-publicity cases
on the backs of patients and doctors. Recent actions show that prosecutors
have little concern about the trail of destruction left by their actions as
patients face crippling pain and gut-wrenching withdrawal.
If this continues, there won't be one doctor left willing to prescribe the
drugs that patients so desperately need.
And that will leave 48 million other patients in addition to Rush Limbaugh
who have legitimate medical illnesses, injuries and disabilities seeking
legal medications in innovative illegal ways. Perhaps they will call their
lawyers to obtain prescriptions for legal pain medications.
Either way, some Democrats think pain is funny! And either way we are
heading for a painful showdown between patients and the DEA.
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments
on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a past president of the
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and a Discovery Institute
honorary fellow and board member.
JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists.
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