OxyContin: Pain Relief vs. Abuse
Are worries over abuse having an impact on the drug's legitimate use as a painkiller?
The Backlash of OxyContin Abuse continued...
"The war on drugs has become a war on legal drugs, on patients who take
them, and on doctors who prescribe them," Serkes tells WebMD.
The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons has issued a warning
to doctors: "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. Or if you do, first discuss the risks
with your family."
Libby, who is writing a book entitled The Criminalization of Medicine:
America's War on Doctors, says OxyContin can be safer to take than
nonsteroidal anti-inflammtory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
"OxyContin does no damage to internal organs, but NSAIDs irritate the
stomach lining, liver, and other organs."
Pinsky says, "If you had cancer you would thank God OxyContin exists.
Unfortunately there's a huge social movement vilifying it as an evil product of
drug companies. It's total nonsense. The drug itself is not bad. It's a great
medication, but it has to be used by skillful clinicians."
It's a challenge to balance the needs of chronic pain patients, health care
providers, the chemical dependency treatment community, and law enforcement.
But efforts are under way. The Pain & Policies Study Group at the
University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center issues
annual progress report cards evaluating states' policies regarding the use of
opioid analgesics in pain management. The concern is that cancer pain is often
undertreated, and opioids like OxyContin are essential.
Evaluation scores reflect a balanced approach in which law enforcement
practices to prevent diversion and abuse do not interfere with the medical use
of opioid analgesics in treating pain. In the group's 2006 report, it was noted
that policies adopted in the last decade by 39 state legislatures and medical
boards addressed doctors' concerns about being investigated for prescribing
opioid pain medications.
The report concludes: "Despite a growing effort by policymakers and
regulators, the fear of regulatory scrutiny remains a significant impediment to
pain relief and will take years of further policy development, communication,
and education to overcome."