Journalism in the Public Interest

The Champion of Painkillers

The annual death toll from overdoses of painkillers has reached almost 15,000, prompting the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to term it an “epidemic.” But the American Pain Foundation continues to claim the risks are overblown. The advocacy group’s biggest supporter? The drug industry.

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Jan. 13, 2012, 3:41 p.m.

Thank you Emma for your kind words and wishes.


Jan. 13, 2012, 10:26 a.m.

Thanks for your thoughts. I’m reconciled now to living with my regrets and trying to do more for the people i love during the rest of my life. I do believe in karma, and if I hold ill-will towards those who I believe did too little to help my husband, it will come back and bite me eventually.
One important thing I have learned is to be more careful in my judgments about the needs and behaviors of others—from their need for drugs to their private personal lives, judging others is Not. My. Job.
I wish for you peace in your heart and the glow of the morning sun on your face.


Jan. 9, 2012, 11:46 p.m.

Dear Emma,
No one can do more than just showing sympathy here in words.
If a human consciously get involved into death or killing of another human, the justice will be served somehow because God exists on this earth too, in forever mysterious forms. Justice takes place on a very personal level and atleast only the perpetrator, in one way or another silently suffers upto the last moments of living life on this planet before becoming atoms.again.
Please always try to take negative things, done by others, easy for your own hapiness.


Jan. 9, 2012, 4:46 p.m.

I’m convinced that my late husband’s untreated neurological pain in his head and face hastened his death from heart failure. I will always regret that i didn’t hock the silver to get him to a major pain treatment center. He endured, as the stoic he was, but it was hard on both of us. I curse the day we chose our doctor, as he was no help…...
On People;s Pharmacy two pain doctors said they had only a couple of patients they couldn’t help. Of course, I heard this years after my husband died…... crying doesn’t help now…..

Greg Ewing

Jan. 8, 2012, 8:50 a.m.

I applaud you for going after big pharmo but please take care to aim your attacks judiciously. Opiates and opiods are clean, cheap and work effectively to kill pain. There is no real alternative. To be giving credibility to anyone who disputes that they work is disappointing. For every problem with over-prescribing you will find a dozen where people in pain cannot get adequate treatment for that pain.


Jan. 6, 2012, 7:15 p.m.

My father had chronic pain for most of his adult life, and didn’t get much help from prescription drugs. One doctor finally told him he should just drink alcohol since it was readily available and cheap. That’s what he did and he ended up dying from cirrhosis of the liver. Our medical system is a failure. We need to find cures for pain disorders, not cover them up with drugs! It is too bad that it’s come to this.


Jan. 6, 2012, 5:22 a.m.

I overreacted when I said good riddance, however making these live saving drug harder to get than they are is not help those of us who need them.

Patricia Nixon

Jan. 5, 2012, 12:55 p.m.

Until you have experienced post herpatic neuralgia from herpes zoster, you have not experienced pain.  It is the equivalent of third degree burns. I was treated at UPMC by DR. Doris Cope who is a world known anesthesiologist/pain specialist. The treatment approach taken involved 5 different treatments, including a special salve which used tricyclic antidepressants on the affected skin,  5 nerve blocks, percocet, lyrica, lydocaine and fentanyl patches. It took three months to deal with the pain before it left. A person with chronic pain should seek out a pain specialist, and not rely solely on opiods or any other medication exclusively.
It is irresponsible to state that medications are being over prescribed for certain conditions, as this article suggests. There are instances when intractable pain needs to be treated by opiods.


Jan. 4, 2012, 10:59 p.m.

I have used o/c for over 10 years it has been a live saver and to the 15,000 junkies good riddance!

Ed Franks

Jan. 4, 2012, 6:03 p.m.

A clarification, I think, might be useful. Of course, this is just based on my experience, but this is how I see it after 13 years of being in constant intractable pain:

1. Everyone who takes any kind of opiate for more than a few days BECOMES physically addicted. Addiction is NOT the same as abuse. All abusers ARE addicts, but NOT all addicts are abusers!

2. In addition, virtually all users develop tolerance over time, so that more is required. This is usually NOT evidence of abuse. It is how the body reacts to opiates, always, for everyone, even if ur med-free pain level remains constant.

3. Finally, even at large doses, if you have intractable pain and have been taking opiates for a long time, you are very likely sober as a judge, despite the meds, unless u start mixing it with other drugs and/or alcohol.

The issue is very complicated, and virtually no one outside medical community understands this, and not many IN the medical community get it, including most “pain” specialists, who are typically only anesthesiologists, for whom board certification does not include training in chronic pain management.

Howard Hughes figured this all out in 1947, when he realized he would have to manage his own suffering himself, and he did a pretty good job considering he ran 5 companies worth billions right up until the lasts 3 or 4 years, the entire time on opiates!

Russ Newell

Jan. 4, 2012, 4:40 p.m.

My father, a retired school superintendent, committed suicide with a shotgun.  He had been in constant pain. I talked to him the year before his suicide and he told me he no longer had any good days.  He’d had cancer and radiation treatment and was left in constant pain.  His doctors undertreated his pain, I’m guessing because of DEA pressure.  Both the New York Times and have had stories of doctors being arrested for pain treatment.  I guess we can all look forward to remaining in pain in our old age.  If the government is looking for someplace to cut, how about getting the DEA out of the doctors offices.


Jan. 3, 2012, 2:22 p.m.

It’s worth pointing out that focusing on the drugs is doing a disservice to as many people as mindlessly prescribing them.

Every body is different.  Everybody’s pain is different.  The issue here is on doctors who—due to influence (conscious or not) from the drug companies who couldn’t care less about the patients—prescribe drugs as if they’re cure-alls and interchangeable.

This series is not and should not be about drugs.  They’re about doctors who have outsourced their responsibility for critical thinking to a salesman or to the unethical patient.

There are cases for which every drug will help.  That’s why they were brought to market, remember, and as long as their use is confined to those cases and there’s no conflict, they should be used.  But sales reps are as unethical as used car dealers, and many doctors (somehow) trust them to be informative and fully forthcoming about the benefits and drawbacks of the latest wonder drug.

The fault lies with irresponsible doctors, who clearly exist no matter how many people had good experiences with good doctors.  Anybody jumping from that to “all drugs are evil” shouldn’t be let anywhere near a sick or injured person.

Chris Fisher

Jan. 2, 2012, 10:43 p.m.

For Pete’s sake, get over it.  Of course the Pharmaceutical companies are selling and defending their product.  That is what a companies do.  They aren’t charities.

What percentage I wonder of all the people taking pain medication on a regular basis number among those deaths listed?  What percentage of those were accidental, what percentage due to failing to follow instructions, and what percentage actually on purpose?

Every one of your readers is much more likely to die from one of the leading causes of death listed below (source is the CDC, from 2009, link also listed):

  Heart disease: 616,067
  Cancer: 562,875
  Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  Diabetes: 71,382
  Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  Septicemia: 34,828


Jan. 2, 2012, 8:22 p.m.

Clark Baker, I think you are right.  Recently a start up pharmaceutical company just had a new pain medication approved that would compete against the opiates but you should see the side effects. Very bad side effects.  In any case their stock isn’t doing so well and they expected it to stike once they got FDA approval.  Some thought they were going to make a killing on this new drug with a lot of side effects but instead are in a lot of pain because of it…perhaps they should suffer and leave those that rely on pain meds alone.

Clark Baker

Dec. 31, 2011, 5:56 p.m.

It seems that ProPublica has struck another pharmaceutical nerve.  Keep up the GREAT WORK!


Dec. 31, 2011, 1:04 p.m.

Gosh golly, gee whiz. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all that money blown on propaganda got spent on researching alternatives? And Propublica that was a smear campaign for those of us who are actually helped by opioids.

I’ve been told that I have a RIGHT to get my pain treated. Don’t know if that’s true based on how some doctors have treated me in the past. It’s ugly out there… I really wish they’d find better alternatives.

Propublica, that was NOT a balanced article. If you’re going to go after the foundation then go. But you give those of us who depend on these drugs for quality of life a really bad name. No, I will NOT donate to you.

JR Baltimore

Dec. 31, 2011, 8:56 a.m.

I have seen much of my relatives depending on those painkillers. There are surely not addicted to it because they can live happily without the drugs when there is no pain, provided they follow the dosage recommended by the doctors and FDA. It is so sad to know that ProPublica published such a biased news based on some tiny-miny information gathered from some people who are not specialized in prescribing drugs. Its not matter of addiction or dying when its all about pain. Furthermore, there are lot of diseases without definite cure that can only relieved by painkillers to ensure normal living which the patients want to live with. Is the death in the chronic diseases mentioned are purely due to painkillers? Aren’t there other causes that might accelerate the death which are published in the scientific reports? As far as I know, to show that one thing is causing one complication, there are lot of confounding factors lie between the relationship of those two things, in which by removing the confounding factors, the outcome would be different. Hope Propublica can find such articles to show the justification of side effects of painkillers.

John Perry

Dec. 30, 2011, 10:10 a.m.

I am a real person and this is my real name.  I was diagnosed with a disease that slowly weakens my muscles by creating an access of a muscle damaging toxin in my blood.  I was diagnosed at the age of 31.  The weak muscles in my back, which also spasm and painfully erode away due to the elevated toxin, has caused my lumbar discs to tear and bulge.  According to my Specialist, this is because my back muscles are no longer strong enough to support my spinal column.  The pain that I am in every day, for the rest of my life, as I endure this progressive Adult onset Mitochondrial Myopthy has caused me to have to be on pain killers.  I have tried everything leading up to the opiates and am actually on many medications in addition to the pain killers, along with supplements that the FDA refuses to approve for treatment.  Without the opiates I can honestly say that I would not be able to get out of bed, and would lay in bed in agonizing pain that would not cease.  If something came along that would cure the disease and get me off the opiate based pain killers I would take it in a minute,  I hate being on pain killers because of the judgmental people who look at my age, see what I am taking, and stop to ask, is it possible that I am unfortunate enough to have a genetic, metabolic disease that causes me to need it to have any type of life with my wife and three children.  Some people are so close minded they will even accuse me of being a “sock puppet.”  I can say that I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone, but it has taught me not to judge other’s situations that I can’t possibly understand.

Ed Franks

Dec. 30, 2011, 2:29 a.m.

Amazed at all the chronic pain comments. That’s what I was going to say, but it’s all been said above. Pete’s story is my story. Disabling pain now for 13 years; back surgeries, epidurals, hip replacement, acupunc, chiros, hypnos, biofeedback, quacks, faith healers, mayo clinic, and on and on and on. Now I just cope, day by day, with boatload of meds. I’m never pain-free, as to be so requires too much meds to be coherent. Must remain horizontal 95% of life to minimize pain and thus med intake. I am not abusing anything, but I am certainly physically dependent on pain meds. Important to make distinction between addiction and abuse—they are NOT synonyms…


Dec. 29, 2011, 11:23 p.m.

What I’ve noticed?  We have a lot of Americans who would much rather blame prescribed medications, illicit drugs, guns, alcohol, what-have-you for the deaths of others (whether related or unrelated to them) than accept the possibility that their own actions - or inactions - may have created or failed to prevent the economic, social, or emotional environment that was the true driver behind those deaths.

That is extremely cruel, were you to ask me, particularly in the case of those who find that their emotional or physical quality of life is so very bad that they’d rather escape or even…not live.  When the effort is directed not towards solving the issues that drive people into despair but instead at removing the myriad ways that people choose to escape that despair, it is really a condemnation…a sentencing to suffering.

But hey - creating ever more laws doesn’t cost those who seek their creation emotionally or *monetarily, so it’s all good, right?

(*Well, not counting an exploding prison population and the cost of maintaining the American Gulag.)


Dec. 29, 2011, 6:26 p.m.


Today, 3:28 p.m.

“... Many patients taking their opioids as prescribed have ended up addicted, still in pain, and sadly many have lost their lives.”


Really?  How many?  You’ve made the assertion.  Give me the numbers.  How many patients, taking opiate based painkillers for chronic and acute pain, in doses as prescribed by their physicians, end up addicted or dead?  My guess is a very, very small percentage.  Likely smaller than those who have died from complications of other prescribed medications.


Dec. 29, 2011, 3:28 p.m.

The reality is so many greedy people are making money by marketing drug misinformation which leads to more pain, addiction and lost lives and ruined families.  Patients must be given the facts before being prescribed “pharmaceutical grade heroin” and the doctors prescribing these dangerous drugs need to receive proper education from independent sources having no interest in the selling of opioids.

Those who wish to deflect the problem to the misuse and abuse of these drugs need to understand that evidence based research does not support this theory.  Many patients taking their opioids as prescribed have ended up addicted, still in pain, and sadly many have lost their lives.

TN Jed

Dec. 29, 2011, 12:48 p.m.

@Steve, you’re spot on. I might add, that prior to ever trying out opioids for my meshodynia pain, I was put on all manner of other non-narcotic medications. Among them, Lyrica, which did nothing. However, I have another pain from these surgeries that is treated brilliantly with an anti-depressant. I not only have the meshodynia, but the first surgery was “open” and the scar left on my abdomen would have made Dr Frankenstein impressed. It was such a nasty closure of the open surgery area that during the laparoscopic second surgery, which you’ll understand is done from a small opening near the navel vs down in the top of “very” lower abdomen, the second surgeon cut out the first surgeon’s then very painful scar and restitched it up. It has a whole different set of pain. Its a random, out of nowhere, stabbing that feels like a giant needle. No cause and effect, it just happens. This is controlled brilliantly with Cymbalta. If I run out of Cymbalta or drop to one a day because I’m running low and its a holiday or something and I can’t get them, within a few days that needle-stabbing at random will re-appear. If I could get the meshodynia to stop on either side of the scrotum where the mesh is stapled into me, has shrunken and damaged those nerves, to stop, I would happily live with the Cymbalta the rest of my days to keep the needle stabs reduced by a good 95% in frequency because of that antidepressant.

Again, the bottom line here is that we need people to separate the junkie, Rush Limbaugh doctor-shopping addicts who intermingle themselves with legitimate pain management cases. I’ve often joked that the cruelty of my condition is that I DON’T get the euphoria and pleasure these junkies do, because if a man whose area to either side of his sack isn’t entitled to a little euphoria and pleasure, I don’t know who would be. But I digress…. I live with what I live with, I take my medications exactly as prescribed, I jump through all the hoops, and my family physician, who thankfully got me out of the pain management clinic scene, is confident that he is treating me as he should and that I am in need of my treatment.

As for the junkies, the pill-popping thrill seekers, they will do anything to get their fix. If it weren’t pills, they’d seek cocaine or heroin or some other way to get their dopamine levels all pumped up for pleasure. Me, I’m just seeking to be able to sit up at a desk for more than a couple of hours, or be able to walk the floor of a trade show, without feeling like a 90-year old man, all because I had the nerve to get two hernias repaired, the first repair by a man who may well have trained under Dr Mengele.


Dec. 29, 2011, 12:28 p.m.

I appreciate the Physician that wrote: The Champion of Painkillers
It brings up a vital issue I have very strong anger about and a question: What doctor has the balls to hook people on antidepressants or anticonvulsants instead of pills that completely block the pain??? What is such doctor’s justification for a warped sense of duty to relieve suffering? Or do they not have their old policy of compassion and respect for their patients? Who is teaching you to add more side-effect suffering to the misery people are already experiencing when you can stop any prescription after a certain time and/or change it? Doctors are becoming bizarre in my opinion concerning common sense compassion and service! And I thank you for your thoughts as this issue needs to be brought to the public’s attention.

TN Jed

Dec. 29, 2011, 12:11 p.m.

Catherine, you’re hurting, and that’s awful, but your logic just isn’t sound. There are not enough hospital beds in the country for people who suffer from genuine, doctor-dianosed, medically-verified, CT Scans and surgical record-confirming post-surgical neuropathy alone, in my cash meshodynia, or pain caused from mesh. Before my first operation I had to sign a waiver that I would not sue my surgeon if chronic pain developed because it is a known side effect of this kind of operation. I am one of the “lucky ones” who got it. Why would I have been presented that form while I lay there with my hernia bulging, full of adhesions it turned out, if what I suffer from now is imaginary and like your loved one I’m just trying to get high?

You’ve got some awful anecdotes, and I respect that you’ve seen some ugly things of addicts you love. I am not an addict, I am however, dependent. I need them to be productive. Its akin to having a big rock in your shoe. If your job requires you to stand, walk and run, and you had a big rock in your shoe digging in, but could not remove it, after a while, you wouldn’t be able to do your job. I am searching nationwide for a surgeon willing to remove this mesh and hopefully end my pain. I have nerve damage from mesh that is stapled into my body, the mesh is shrinking and stiffening and scar tissue is growing around it. Educate before you speculate.

“Nerve injury can occur during dissection or mesh fixation with staples. The
genitofemoral nerve (GFN) and femoral nerve (FN) are at risk during the
dissection of the indirect sac and posterior peritoneal leaf. The genital branch of GFN nerve usually pierces the iliopubic tract just lateral to the deep inguinal ring. Injury is avoided by keeping the dissection immediately deep to the peritoneum. Some surgeons dissect circumferentially around the spermatic cord in order to place a slit mesh at the deep ring. This potentially predisposes to GFN injury. The femoral branch usually passes deep to the inguinal ligament within the psoas fascia, but it may pierce the iliopsoas and transversalis fascia. Rarely it may accompany the femoral artery within its sheath. This nerve is not at high risk for injury.”

I’ll say it again, people who take the medications exactly as prescribed are not the ones you should have a beef with, its the people who lie, the people who doctor shop like Rush Limbaugh did to the degree that he lost his hearing he had taken so many. These are junkies, addicts, drug-seekers, looking for euphoria and getting it at the expense of legitimate patients.

You might not have had surgery or known anyone who has, but you’re sent home hours after it these days. They surely aren’t going to keep me, because of a serious case of mesh pain, in a hospital bed. I am self employed, I am able to work from home, I earn a respectable living thank God, and can do that, but I work from my bed, with a laptop and a phone. If I did not have the clear mind and skills I would be unable to get out and go to work each day. I know, this is all nonsense to you, because you have not walked in my shoes, you only think you would, but I absolutely assure you, you would not want to do so.


Dec. 29, 2011, 11:52 a.m.

As a physician who completed a fellowship and is board-certified in pain management I can state that Will Rowe is quite right that the major thing that interferes with good pain management is inadequate training of physicians on the subject.  Most medical schools and residency programs provide little education on pain management. 
It is easy to disprove that it is the commonly cited fear of prescribing opioids that is the cause of the undertreatment of pain.
There are many forms of pain that are much better treated with non-opioids.  These include neuthopathic pain such as the pain related to diabetes and shingles and fibormyalgia for which the antidepressants and anticonticonsulants are much more efficacious.  Yet these forms of pain are just as poorly managed as those that respond best to opioids.  I can’t recall reading articles about physicians being afraid to write prescriptions for antidepressants or anticonvulsants.

Walter D. Shutter, Jr.

Dec. 29, 2011, 11:20 a.m.

I get it that the American Pain Foundation is largely funded by Big Pharma, i.e., those companies that manufacture the painkillers.  Makes sense to me.  They want to sell more product and make more money. 
But I also have to wonder who is doing the pushback.  My guess it is Big Government, the CDC, the FDA, and the DEA.  Their motivation? More tax money and more power to fight the “scourge” of prescription drug abuse. 
One more thing:  A tip of the hat to Clark Baker, LAPD (ret.) who mentioned the Harrison Act (1914).  If the readers are interested in the genesis of the War on Drugs, the Harrison Act (see it on Wickipedia) is both required reading and a hoot as well. Because The Harrison Act was drafted before the Commerce Clause got so big it literally ate the rest of the Constitution, it was styled as a measure imposing a tax on opium and cocaine.  Note:  The power to tax is both broader and deeper than the power to regulate, but I digress. The Main Stream Media of the time could not wait to get on board.  Newspapers, including the New York Times, published lurid stories about the evils of opium and cocaine.  For instance:  “Opium addicted white women living with Chinamen in big city Chinatowns”;“Southern sherifs forced to swap out their departments .32 caliber pistols in favor of more powerful .38 caliber pistols in order to bring down cocaine crazed Negroes” And, stop the presses:“Negroes on drugs show contempt for civil authority while increasing their pistol marksmanship skills.”  The last is my personal favorite because it is a “twofer”, a Progressive argument for both tougher drug and gun laws. And sure enough, we got both.  See how far we have come?  Government knows best.


Dec. 28, 2011, 8:29 p.m.

I would walk the rest of my life in your shoes.  !!!!  I wish there was a pill to stop the pain I feel!!! Besides the pill makers, the rehabs centers are now the ones getting rich off the families of opiate addicts.  These pills should not be used outside a hospice setting or hospital. If your in that much pain you need to be in a hospital.  and Ps you are addicted to them. Try to stop for a day and you will go through the same withdrawals as an opiate addict and what would you do to get them.  I pray your kids don’t find them and try them. Out of all the people I have ever known I no of ONE person that takes them for pain and has for years and it truely shows in his speech and thought He is on disability and can’t work not suppose to drive using them (fyi)  and I wouldn’t want him working for me. great guy but most employers want a brain functioning employee


Dec. 28, 2011, 3:45 p.m.

Have you ever lived with an auto immune disease? If you have you know chronic pain, if you haven’t, think of a really bad tooth ache but in your joints and muscles that is constant.  I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I am afraid to take any of the drugs specifically for it because of the side effects. I took Vioxx for awhile and now have atrial fibrillation which is an erratic heart beat that can cause either a stroke or heart attack. I am very afraid to take the other new meds for RA because of this. And some I can’t take because of the A Fib!  The only thing I can take to help the pain is 5 mg Hydrocodone.. I take one a day and if I’m in more pain I’ll take a half more later in the day. But only if I need it. I do not abuse these pills and I also do not drink alcohol.

If I didn’t have this med to take I would not be able to move well and the pain would tire me out and my life would be terrible.

These pains meds are needed by a great many people like me. I say treat the addict, deal with the doctors that over prescribe, but don’t torture the people who really need the meds.

These addicts will find something else to addict them and may die from that. Just like the fake Marijuana is killing people.


Dec. 28, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

Speaking of the Harrison Act (@Clark Baker, LAPD ret), six months had barely passed after this law went into effect in 1914 when a hue and cry went out (and has been echoed periodically ad nauseum ever since by competent medical professionals) in the New York Medical Journal that “Narcotic drug addiction is one of the gravest and most important questions confronting the medical profession today. Instead of improving conditions the laws recently passed have made the problem more complex. Honest medical men have found such handicaps and dangers to themselves and their reputations in these laws . . . that they have simply decided to have as little to do as possible with drug addicts or their needs. . . . The druggists are in the same position and for similar reasons many of them have discontinued entirely the sale of narcotic drugs. [The addict] is denied the medical care he urgently needs, open, above-board sources from which he formerly obtained his drug supply are closed to him, and he is driven to the underworld where lie can get his drug, but of course, surreptitiously and in violation of the law….” ( )

So what then? Realized (by some) in 1914 with the passage of the draconian Harrison Act that was perversely interpreted and enforced and then followed up not many years later with Prohibition, that trying to legislate one’s morality on to others is itself immoral. Yet here we are, a hundred years later and still no closer to sanity. Is there really any reason to even comment here? Are we all not just wasting our time and energy, beating a dead [insert PETA-friendly, PC noun here]?


Dec. 28, 2011, 1:36 p.m.

I have a bit of trouble believing the “ from the prestigious Institute of Medicine last summer said 116 million American adults suffer from chronic pain”.  With a total population of 309 million people and 74 million under 18 yearsof age, this means that roughly half of the adult population is suffering from chronic pain.  Really?


Dec. 28, 2011, 12:07 p.m.

Bless you, steve for your understanding and clear reason.

And finally, here is another obvious fault in the premise of this article which should be clear to anyone with a functioning brain.  Look at the very first sentence: 

“The annual death toll from overdoses of painkillers has reached almost 15,000, prompting the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to term it an “epidemic…”

Do you see it?  Here’s a clue:  More than 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year!  That’s a very conservative number because how is one to know if an overdose or swerve off a cliff is intentional or not?  The person is dead!  Difficult to get a straight answer from a corpse.  So, of the 15,000 overdose deaths being cited in this article, how many were suicides?  The argument could easily be made that anyone abusing pharmaceuticals to the point of knowingly taking more than the prescribed dose or mixing with alcohol is engaging in self destructive or “suicidal” behavior.  So, in typical ass-backward American response, we have seemingly sentient people blaming the pill or the availability of the pill for the problem.  Instead of focusing on WHY people in this country are so hell bent on self destructive behavior or in such mental and emotional despair that they walk up to the threshold of death and willingly knock on the door, time and again, it is much easier on the national psyche to blame the pill and try to restrict its use.


Dec. 28, 2011, 2:09 a.m.

That kind of arrogance, I should add, is why you get so very many results when you Google for “misdiagnosed +died” (without the quotation marks).

Should these arguments against the prescription of pain killers succeed, there are very many baby boomers who will tearfully and painfully regret living longer than earlier generations; who will regret having outlived, in fact, the warranty evolution gave on their physical bodies.

People who - because of other efforts by “conservatives” - are finding that they cannot retire and “take it easy” but who instead must keep punishing their bodies with unending labor, often without access to alternative and more expensive methods of pain control that insurance companies (should they be fortunate enough to have insurance) will not cover.


Dec. 28, 2011, 1:52 a.m.

@Jan Bernard:  Have you any comprehension of how insufferably arrogant it is to refute first-person testimony in favor of a conclusion supported not by any familiarity with either the patient, the diagnosis, the prognosis, the doctor and medical system involved, or even the legal system having jurisdiction but instead only by your wish to arrive at an outcome that satisfies your own biases?


Dec. 28, 2011, 1:03 a.m.

Jan Bernard

33 minutes ago

I disagree with Will.  The reason he had “prescriptions refused” was because, in the judgement of his many physicians, his condition either did not warrant opioid therapy or the risk of addiction or an adverse event was too great. Make no mistake, doctors have the option to prescribe opioids when they believe it to be appropriate.

Ya just don’t get it do you?  The reason I and others have prescriptions refused is because of attitudes like yours and the cover my ass or condescending apathy of clueless physicians.  I had SEVEN surgeries in an attempt to find relief from that horrible pain.  Four different surgeons, each specialists in their field, took me seriously enough to risk my undergoing general anesthesia and surgery seven times.  As I have stated before, I was on every medication short of veterinary without any concern from a single doctor. You can blah, blah, and deny it all you want, but doctors are more and more and likely to deny this medication to legit patients with severe pain, simply because of the negative press and potential liability.


Dec. 28, 2011, 12:37 a.m.

The argument seems to be that those who suffer from pain must be sacrificed by Big Government in order stop those who “abuse” (itself a term defined and redefined by an enforcement, treatment, and punishment system that exists only because of of the constant redefining of the term) drugs - but this go-round, gift-wrapped as an effort to protect the American people from “Big Pharma”.

To modify an excerpt from George Kennan’s The Sources of Soviet Power appropriately:

The “organs of suppression,” in which the [conservative] leaders had sought security from rival forces, became in large measures the masters of those whom they were designed to serve. Today the major part of the structure of [conservative] power is committed to the perfection of the dictatorship and to the maintenance of the concept of [America] as in a state of siege, with the enemy lowering beyond the walls. And the millions of human beings who form that part of the structure of power must defend at all costs this concept of [America’s] position, <b>for without it they are themselves superfluous<b>.

End quote.

It is curious how humans always seem to trod the same paths towards totalitarianism while ever protesting the purity of their intentions.

TN Jed

Dec. 28, 2011, 12:21 a.m.

As somebody else mentioned, the folks who are vocally upset about chronic pain sufferers getting relief only seem to thing the solution can be tossing the baby out with the proverbial bathwater.

Never done heroin in my life, but if I could not control this horrendous 24/7 3.5-4 level pain and a scale of 1-10 without my Endocet, I would for the first time error be seeking it out if that were the only way I could get the relief in my groin that would allow me to function.

I want to make ti clear, for the record, hopefully one last time. People in chronic pain do not experience the euphoria that addicts seek because they are every-so -careful to use it exactly as prescribed, no more, no less. It the addicts who make things hard for the patients in need, the junkies, the people who pop the pills and chase them with alcohol, looking for a buzz. I’m not going to reveal who I am, but I’ll tell you this, I’ve played music with people who were at Woodstock and Monterey Pop Festival (bunch of aging geezer friends) and if I wanted to get high, I sure know who to call. Its not my doctor. I’m sorry some of ya’ll have addiction issues, and I’m sorry some of you have had to deal with junkies. Now how about having some pity on somebody that has 24/7 pain on either side of his scrotum where they stapled or tacked some mesh in each side, then had the misfortune to have copious amounts of scar tissue grow into it and trap the nerves. All of the folks who think pain patients are a bunch of junkies instead of legitimate patients would cry like a newborn baby if they had to carry this pains with them without any kind of relief. The only non-opiod relief I can get is when i am immersed in a hot tub, or soaking in a warm bath, or if i shove a heating pad up between my legs trying to place the heat to either side of my scrotum while trying not to burn my testicles. Its awful.

So get treatment of the junkies and the addicts, and leave my medication the heck alone.

Jan Bernard

Dec. 28, 2011, 12:07 a.m.

I disagree with Will.  The reason he had “prescriptions refused” was because, in the judgement of his many physicians, his condition either did not warrant opioid therapy or the risk of addiction or an adverse event was too great. Make no mistake, doctors have the option to prescribe opioids when they believe it to be appropriate.

Patients have a right to tell their physicians the full story, the extent of the pain and its impact on their lives. Physicians are the ones with the responsibility to determine what to prescribe, if anything. That is why they train for so long.

And the people who have suffered from addiction to prescription painkillers, as well as the families of the 15,000 who die from Rx opioid overdose each year, deserve to have their voices heard.

The pain is real and the risks are real. The trend of more and more opiates being prescribed in the last decade would actually indicate increased access to these drugs in recent years. Doctors have to weigh all the evidence and their patient’s particular circumstances—it is no easy job. And these extensive conflicts of interest between patient advocacy and industry are not helpful. Patient anecdotes help paint a complete picture of the situation, but so does taking a close look at the elaborate industry money trail.


Dec. 27, 2011, 10:45 p.m.

“Once an addict always an addict?” Whether my pituitary gland did or did not resume production of Endorphins, thirty years ago I was a heroin addict for several years, then on methadone maintenance for several more, and although I’ve had relapses, mostly with marijuana, I have had no desire for opiates since the 1980’s.

Couple months ago I severely herniated a disc resulting in lumbar spinal stenosis and was taking half a Percocet three or four times a day, and not liking the effects at all. After having an Epidural Steroid Injection five days ago I stopped taking the Percocets.

My hope is to avoid narcotic pain medication, as I do fear addiction, and the fierce denial that almost always accompanies it.

“It is not the fear of the pains of withdrawal that keeps addicts from giving up opiates, but the craving for a state of consciousness they believe can only be had with the opiate of their choice.” ~Aldous Huxley


Dec. 27, 2011, 6 p.m.

I am sick and tired of the baseless and nearly mindless commentary by people who have not experienced what I and so many others have had to deal with.  First, YOU HAVE NO IDEA what it is like.  Hours become days and days, months.  You can’t go out, you can’t see people.  You can’t have sex, you can’t play with your children.  You are spending every ounce of strength and spirit just trying to survive another day.  And for many the only dent in this agony is provide by opiates.  These pills allowed me to think, to engage, to have some semblance of a life while I fought to find out what was causing the pain.  The other, more expensive drugs?  The latest and greatest?  Did nothing for the pain, but left me stupid or semi-conscious.  The next person that has the gall or the ignorance to tell me to my face that this campaign against opiate pain relief is a good thing, better have access to a physician willing to prescribe it, cuz they’re going to need it.


Dec. 27, 2011, 5:43 p.m.

Jan Bernard

Today, 2:32 p.m.

“...The personal stories shared here are helpful, but I think that the issues highlighted, conflicts of interest and the increasing problem of opiate overdose, are being interpreted by patients as a threat to cut off access to prescription opioids. This is not the case. Physicians are the medical decision-makers and nobody is proposing to take away their ability to prescribe prescription opioids to those with legitimate need…”

Actually, that is quite incorrect.  I and many others who have experienced conditions that caused debilitating pain have had prescriptions refused, treatment with opiate based painkillers refused and have been told that you must “learn to live with the pain”.  In the ten years that I experienced horrible, neurological and muscle pain, I was denied opiate based painkillers on a dozen different occasions, by different doctors INCLUDING a “pain specialist”.  All because I “could become addicted” or “the drugs would eventually be ineffective anyway”  or “too many people are coming in just for the drugs”.  My wife would help me back to the car in tears.  However, I had no problem getting Lyrica, Topomax or any number of other prescription drugs that would make me drool or nearly brain dead.  Finally, I found a compassionate, local specialist that came to my rescue and provided a renewable and regular prescription of opiate based painkillers.  I am fine now.  My pain has gone, I now know why it was there in the first place (no thanks to 99.9% of the doctors I saw) and I am taking ZERO medication.  But I’ll never forget the humiliation and callous nature of a system that is not about the patient but about profit and potential liability.


Dec. 27, 2011, 5:27 p.m.

Please be MORE concerned about those who DO NOT gt adequate pain coverage. Quite the fear shit!

Jan Bernard

Dec. 27, 2011, 2:32 p.m.

First, chronic pain is a serious and debilitating condition that can be ameliorated with prescription opioids. However, there are certainly risks, including addiction and accidental overdose. These are facts.

The personal stories shared here are helpful, but I think that the issues highlighted, conflicts of interest and the increasing problem of opiate overdose, are being interpreted by patients as a threat to cut off access to prescription opioids. This is not the case. Physicians are the medical decision-makers and nobody is proposing to take away their ability to prescribe prescription opioids to those with legitimate need.

Patients must understand that in order to have a strong and trusted voice to advocate for them, the American Pain Foundation and other groups must not be conflicted. It is unfortunate that the Foundation continues to receive drug company money. 

It is a fact that financial conflicts of interest (including Foundation leadership receiving money from drug companies) can bias the actions and opinions of individuals (even doctors!) and organizations. Patients and, yes, government need to sponsor unbiased studies and the work of unbiased experts who don’t have industry relationships. Otherwise, pain patients and physicians are at risk of not being taken seriously on this important matter.

Barry Schmittou

Dec. 27, 2011, 1:07 p.m.

This is another example of extreme and potentially deadly conflicts of interests that are seen in almost every area of big business and government in the U.S as evidenced at :

One of the unprosecuted crimes I will be adding to that website and Court filings include these quotes from ProPublica regarding Zyprexa :

According to :

“Drugmaker Eli Lilly pleaded guilty to illegally marketing its blockbuster antipsychotic Zyprexa for elderly patients. Lilly paid $1.4 billion in criminal penalties”

(No one was prosecuted)

“A doctor named as a co-defendant in one suit - for allegedly taking kickbacks to prescribe the drug extensively at nursing homes - never was pursued.”

“Alpharma paid $42.5 million to settle fraud allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to prescribe its painkiller Kadian.”

“At least 15 drug and medical-device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks.”

(No one was prosecuted)

“None of the more than 75 doctors named as participants were sanctioned, despite allegations of fraud or of conduct that put patients at risk, a review by ProPublica found.”

(end of ProPublica quotes)

In this article Propublica wrote :

The foundation collected nearly 90 percent of its $5 million funding last year [4] from the drug and medical-device industry—and closely mirrors its positions, an examination by ProPublica found.

Although the foundation maintains it is sticking up for the needs of millions of suffering patients, records and interviews show that it favors those who want to preserve access to the drugs over those who worry about their risks.

Some of the foundation’s board members [5] have extensive financial ties to drugmakers, ProPublica found, and the group has lobbied against federal and state proposals to limit opioid use. Painkiller sales have increased fourfold since 1999 [6], but the foundation argues that pain remains widely undertreated.”

(end of ProPublica quotes)

I pray all those who need pain medication and every other type of medication will be able to receive the help and relief they need.

I pray the drug industries power and money will no longer be able to cause any doctors to overprescribe medications; I believe it will take a tremendous miracle for that to happen !!

To see more extreme conflicts of interest regarding doctors and insurance companies please view the quotes from numerous Judges I’ve posted at

To see how the U.S. Government repeatedly fails to prosecute corporate crimes please go to :

Dawn PS

Dec. 27, 2011, 10:17 a.m.

After living on high doses of morphine for over 10 years, I took the leap to medical marijuana (cannabis.) I will never look back. I was able to stop all my meds COLD TURKEY (still taking premarin) and my quality of life has never been better! My mom thinks I may have had this pain longer than I can remember (I’m nearly 45) and my family is amazed at the difference. The chronic pain I have is almost always gone, peeks through now & again, but the pain is tolerable when it’s there. The best parts are:
1. Cannabis has never killed anyone directly (reading above I saw the “take it as directed and you won’t overdose” has never looked into Methadone - Google Washington and methadone… it’s very scary)
2. The studies showing it’s health benefits are coming out in droves! (Google Granny Storm Crow’s List and start reading!)
The US gov’t says there’s no medicinal value in cannabis yet they have A PATENT on it for it’s health benefits!
BTW, the depression that comes from chronic pain is terrible. I was able to stop my antidepressant, muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, anti-emetics, and others because of cannabis. I am eating healthier (I crave healthy foods and not junk) and I have a quality of life like never before. And my sex life is amazing.

Opiates help some people. I won’t demonize them. I will demonize the people in pharma who are making killer profits (pun not intended but still, so true!) Until doctors are open to ALL avenues of healing & treatment, we as patients and family must be forever questioning and doing our own research. My doctor wouldn’t entertain medical marijuana for me, so I got my card through another physician. Now my doctor sees the difference and has recommended my renewal.

Jennie Kermode

Dec. 27, 2011, 9:19 a.m.

My partner suffered neural damage from shingles whilst immunosuppressed, and as the nerves started to regrow he was in agony. He would suffer sudden bouts of acute pain in which his body would spasm horribly - and he was a leukaemia patient for whom pain was not unfamiliar. He’d had needles in his spine and a tube through to his vena cava and so forth, but nothing hurt him remotely as much as the neuralgic pain. Oxycontin was the only thing that mitigated it and I hate to imagine how people in that position suffer when it is not available.

I have a serious autoimmune illness myself, and calcinosis. To put it simply, lumps of stone form in my skin, sometimes an inch or more accross, and some grow until they tear through it. Fluid can build up around them, too, creating swellings the size of my fist in the days before they burst. Tramadol gets me through the worst of the pain and without it I think I would damage myself severely, if not kill myself; it has reached the stage before where I have had fits and started banging my head against the wall in an instinctive attept to block out the pain.

For the record, my partner quit oxycontin as his nerves healed and hasn’t touched opiates since. I have no trouble quitting during the weeks or sometimes months when my pain is less severe.

Ys, some people abuse painkillers. Yes, some people exploit their production and sale. But they exist for a reason. I fear that those who wish to do away with them have no real conception of how desperately they are needed.


Dec. 27, 2011, 9:15 a.m.

It has nothing to do with abuse and everything to do with greed. The DEA wants to ensure their existence I’m sure but other political maneuvering is working against those that suffer in pain day after day.
Read this motion and wonder why these people are dying waiting for trial against GE.  These people will likely have difficulty or the millions that come after them because GE has injected over 100M doses of their product Omniscan, an unstable product that does grave harm to the body.

Paul G

Dec. 27, 2011, 8:10 a.m.

Why are people going to blame real people with real pain for the small % of people that have issues, addictions, overdoses, and I might add also due to booze, coke , heroin, and other drugs not just pills. If someone wants to die sorry, but don’t blame us pain sufferers.I have been on pain meds for years and take them as Rx’d to me.Why must I suffer with drugs that don’t work (Dilaudid) because a small % of people decide to OD on oxycodone? What ban drugs that work look what they did to Oxycontin?Now we have have a carcnegenic made out of plastic. Canada didn’t even do this.We are turning into a police nation.We are frowned upon looked down on, its just sad. The drug companies figure once they cannot make big $$ out of pain meds they try to come out with a weaker plastic model of the med. Big Pharma what a joke . People like the ones that write these articles have never suffered real pain..


Dec. 26, 2011, 12:06 p.m.

Saddens me to see people make the argument that the pain they feel justifies their infliction of suffering upon others.

Saddens me…yet I temper that pity with the knowledge that the same justification - I suffered, so you shall suffer - is usually the conscious or unconscious motivation of child and spouse abusers, serial rapists and killers, etc..


Dec. 26, 2011, 11:29 a.m.

mia wrote:

“...Having an extreme accident or surgery or a side effect of a medical procedure do not justify the person to be on pain killers the rest of their life. However; I have at most respect to those choose to take them chronically in the name of pain since it is not for me to judge them….”


Contradiction.  Look it up.

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This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Dollars for Doctors

Dollars for Doctors: How Industry Money Reaches Physicians

ProPublica is tracking the financial ties between doctors and medical companies.

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