Archives for January, 2012
A reader sent a link to a recent NYT editorial about the lack of pain medications in some countries. The writer of the editorial injured his leg while traveling in Africa, and was dismayed to find that opioid pain medications were in limited supply, with only enough for patients admitted to the hospital. The writer went on to describe a number of developing countries where pain medications are in short supply, and in some cases totally unavailable. He described hospitals and clinics where he was visited, where patients await treatment for horrible injuries without so much as a tablet of Tylenol. I don't want to rewrite the editorial, and I cannot copy it, for obvious copyright reasons-- so you'll have to follow the link. The story mentions the efforts of a group called 'GAPRI', for Global Access to Pain Relief, that tries to reduce barriers to effect pain relief measures in developing countries.
Wow. I just read an email about a story that I was vaguely aware of-- about a doctor in Kansas and his wife, who were together linked to scores of overdose deaths. But that is just the beginning. The doctor was supported, during his trial, by Siobhan Reynolds, founder of a nonprofit advocacy group called 'Pain Relief Network.' She started the group back in 2003, when her ex-husband was suffering from severe pain from a congenital connective tissue disorder. He (the ex-husband) found relief in combinations of high-dose opioids and benzodiazepines, at least until his doctor, Virginia pain specialist William Hurwitz, was convicted on 16 counts of drug trafficking. The ex died, by the way, in 2006. Are you still with me? The trial of the Kansas doctor, Stephen Schneider, went on for years. During the trial, Ms. Reynolds apparently helped support what she considered to be a 'dream team' of attorneys. She used the case as an opportunity to increase her visibility, encouraging the Schneiders to aggressively fight the charges against them on the basis of 'patient rights.' Ms. Reynolds, through the Schneiders, argued that suffering patients are being denied appropriate care because of a war, waged by overly-aggressive prosecutors, against doctors who prescribe pain medication.
Below is an e-mail that I changed just enough to hide the person’s identity. Every week, I receive messages that describe similar situations. My husband has struggled GREATLY with substance abuse since in his 20's; he is now in his mid-40's. He is the kindest sweetest man and he is the BEST husband and father. When he is using he becomes someone he is not. We have run the gamut from jail to overdose. Six years ago a friend introduced him to Suboxone and it LITERALLY gave him his life back. He bought it off the friend for years, where it was very expensive. Finally I brought him to a doctor a bit over a year ago. She is pretty adamant about weaning him off of Suboxone. From experience, I know that 2-3 months after he stops Suboxone he will relapse. I strongly believe it IS a MIRACLE drug! I agree in the sense that if a diabetic needs insulin to save his life, you give it for a lifetime. My husband over the last 6 years has been the man of my dreams, the man I always knew he was. I have extreme anxiety because I know this doctor is just doing her job and trying to follow guidelines however my husband’s LIFE is at stake! It's not like if he stops this med he could ‘just’ have depression; he could end up in jail, or worse. He has his life back. He is enjoying his family life as he should. If this is what it takes for him to live a normal life then why not? When we ask his doctor about staying on Suboxone, she says her concern is that we don't know the long-term effects. She doesn't want to keep anyone on any med without knowing what it could do. She says it hasn't been on the market long enough. My husband had a SEVERE opioid addiction. He was taking 10-15 Oxycontin 80mgs a day and then ended up switching to 400mgs of methadone before he switched to Suboxone. He has found that he is comfortable with 4 of the 8mg pills per day. I believe it is because he was used to taking such high doses of opioids. He has tried really hard to decrease Suboxone for his doctor but I see the anxiety build in him. She says no one in her practice is on that dose. To be honest he was taking more when he was buying them from a friend but brought himself to a stable 4 pills per day when he started with the doctor. He and I both REALLY like her and would like to continue treatment with her. I wish I had a DVD of little clips of our life from before and after Suboxone. I am positive she would be floored. I am positive she would understand my concern. In my eyes my husband is back. He is such a beautiful soul and I hate to see that taken away from him yet again. Doctor I read up at the top of this blog that you agree with a lifetime use. He currently has no noted side effects. Do you have any suggestions that I may present to his doctor? I dream of the day that she says it is alright for him to continue on this until maybe he chooses to wean if he so chooses to do so. That would alleviate SO MUCH stress on both of us. Please let me know what you think. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I agree with most of the opinions expressed in the email. I know how horrible things are for active opioid addicts—and for the families of active opioid addicts.