Charles Lane’s March 12 op-ed column, “The legal drug epidemic,” suggested that regulation is needed to combat prescription drug abuse. The real remedy is a holistic approach to ensure patient access to medications and to curb prescription drug abuse and diversion.
This solution requires collaboration among law enforcement and the health-care community to a degree that does not currently exist. We support the bipartisan Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015, which calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate with the Drug Enforcement Administration to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders, including pharmacy, can benefit patients and prevent prescription drug abuse and diversion.
Community pharmacies maintain zero tolerance for drug diversion and a 100-percent commitment to serving legitimate patient needs. Pharmacists take seriously their role to help patients obtain the legitimate treatment they need, and pharmacists also must help to identify prescription drug abuse.
Congress should deliver the collaboration that fosters patient health while attacking drug abuse and diversion.
Steven C. Anderson, Arlington
The writer is president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
As a defense lawyer with a sub-specialty in advising health-care providers on the criminal laws of opioid prescribing, I quickly saw that Charles Lane’s column overlooked critical aspects of the prescription drug crisis:
● Law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration are too quick to brand pain management doctors as “dealers in white lab coats” and pain patients as drug seekers.
● Opioid manufacturers oversimplify the problem by accusing doctors of “overprescribing” and patients of “abusing” pain drugs.
● State medical boards purport to guide and advise but continually play a politics-fueled game of “gotcha” with doctors and don’t do enough to educate and support prescribers.
● Debilitating pain is real for millions of people. Soccer moms don’t deserve to become heroin addicts because a doctor is too afraid to prescribe a painkiller.
A reasonable approach lies somewhere between manufacturers’ blaming everyone else and the police arresting your local internist.
Steve Meister, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
The illegal sale and use of opioid drugs is the problem. Dealing with intractable pain should be between a patient and a doctor, with checks against overprescribing and prescription-seeking on both sides. To lump all back pain sufferers into a group like Charles Lane did is a disservice to those with failed back surgery syndrome, severe stenosis and other legitimate back pain.
People in my support group are impoverished by their pain and want, more than anything, to be able to work, to pick up their children, to return to normal life. Opioids can be the difference between functioning with bearable pain and the inability even to care for oneself.
Before stopping the prescriptions of opioids, find an alternative to ease the very real pain suffered by these people. We are all one traffic accident away from unending pain.
Gail Fiorini, Reston