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Feature: Pain Doctor and Patient Advocates Get a Congressional Hearing… Finally

For the first time in more than a decade, the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) heavy-handed intrusion into the field of medicine came under congressional scrutiny last week. The broad-ranging review of the DEA's regulation of medicine came at a July 12 hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security chaired by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

While the hearing also included testimony and members' questions about the DEA's role in pursuing medical marijuana dispensaries and blocking marijuana research (see this newsbrief), as well as its apparent underestimation of the amount of pseudoephedrine needed for legitimate commercial and medicinal uses, testimony by Siobhan Reynolds of the pain patients and doctors advocacy group Pain Relief Network and attorney and chronic pain advocate John Flannery put the issue of the federal prosecutions of doctors who prescribe high-dose opioid pain medications front and center.

The hearings gained an added sense of timeliness the following day, when nationally-known pain management physician Dr. William Hurwitz was sentenced to five years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Hurwitz had originally been sentenced to 25 years in prison, but his original verdict was overturned and he was convicted of 16 drug trafficking counts in an April retrial. While pain patient advocates and Hurwitz supporters believe he should never have been convicted at all, they viewed the much shorter sentence -- which with time-served could see Hurwitz free in 17 months -- as a victory of sorts.

Still, Hurwitz remains behind bars for what is at best laxness in dealing with some patients who lied to him and resold drugs he prescribed them for chronic pain. As such, he is emblematic of the growing number of physicians who have been persecuted and prosecuted by the Justice Department and the DEA, as well as state-level prosecutors who have taken their lead from the feds.

"The subcommittee has received numerous complaints about the DEA's regulation of medicine," said Rep. Scott as he opened the hearing. Turning to prescription drug abuse, Scott noted that, "When it was first introduced, OxyContin abuse became rampant in such areas as Appalachia and rural New England. DEA responded by adopting the OxyContin action plan, which involved prosecuting medical doctors who prescribed high doses of painkillers. The DEA claims that this policy was not intended to impact the availability of legitimate drugs necessary to treat patients; however, the evidence suggests that the DEA's decision to prosecute doctors has created a chilling effect within the medical community, so that some doctors are unwilling to prescribe pain medication in sufficiently high doses to treat their patients. The result is that many Americans live with chronic untreated pain."

The first witness was DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversion Control Joseph Rannazzisi, who immediately took issue with the notion that the DEA was trying to regulate medicine. "The title of this hearing, 'DEA's Regulation of Medicine,' is inaccurate," he complained. "DEA does not regulate medicine or the practice of medicine. DEA does investigate violations of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of the source of the violation, be it a Colombian cocaine dealer, a marijuana trafficker or a doctor who abuses the authority to dispense controlled substances."

Saying that DEA considered the diversion of prescription drugs one of its most significant challenges, Rannazzissi said "small numbers of unscrupulous doctors" were part of the problem. Still, he said, the agency wasn't targeting doctors. "Generally speaking, in any given year, DEA arrests less than 0.01 percent of the 750,000 doctors registered with DEA for a criminal violation. More often than not, those violations are egregious in nature and are acts clearly outside the usual course of accepted medical standards."

That brought a sharp retort from the Pain Relief Network's Reynolds, whose life-partner, Sean Greenwood was a former Hurwitz patient who died last year as the family crisscrossed the country searching for a doctor who would treat his chronic pain, during her subsequent testimony. "The DEA contends that they only prosecute 0.01 percent of registrants," she said. "However, that's a misleading figure, because a very small number of registrants prescribe opioid medicines and an even smaller number would prescribe in doses that would relieve serious pain."

"So the actual number of doctors who are arrested is far greater, when you look at the correct denominator, which this leads me to my next point, which I think is really the most important point," Reynolds continued. "This is a government agency that plays fast and loose with the facts, uses incredibly inflammatory rhetoric, talks about crime and addiction and dependence and puts them all together and maybe has no cognizance of the fact that this all ultimately falls on and stigmatizes very, very sick people. But that is in fact what happens."

When it came his turn to testify, Flannery, a former prosecutor and congressional staffer and author of "Pain in America -- And How the Government Makes It Worse," took issue with Rannazzisi's taking issue with the hearing's title. "The title of the hearing, which is the regulation of medicine by DEA is, unfortunately, an apt one," Flannery retorted. "DEA has been regulating medicine, and for them to come here and say that they don't know it means that they either are consciously doing it or recklessly doing it. And I can't believe they're doing it recklessly, because we see the quality of people who work at the department. And that means there's an ideological purpose in regulating medicine. They do not approve of certain medical practices. And, if that is it, they should bring it to the Congress and tell us why, with statistics and explanations, because then it should be a formal policy rather than the secret one that it is presently."

Flannery accused DEA and the Justice Department of "bait and switch" tactics. The legal standard for criminal prosecution of doctors is that they have to be acting outside the course of professional medicine with the intent to push drugs, not treat patients, Flannery noted. "They create these standards on a case-by-case basis," Flannery said. "And how do they do that? They bring a doctor into the courtroom that they pay, who travels around the country, and the standard is created on a case-by-case basis by the DEA doctor."

Determinations of what constitutes criminal conduct by doctors -- as opposed to simple malpractice -- are better left to state medical boards, Flannery said under sympathetic questioning from Rep. Scott.

Ranking minority member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) carried water for the Bush administration, asking whether marijuana should be legalized, worrying about teen prescription drug overdoses and "pharma parties," and asking about marijuana growing in national forests, while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) provided inadvertent comic relief. Gohmert wandered into the hearing room, announced that voters in his district didn't support marijuana legalization, then launched into a bizarre tale about a bag of sterilized marijuana seeds from which some seedlings sprouted he had seen in a court case once before retreating back into silence.

While last week's hearing marked the first oversight of the DEA's regulation of medicine in more than a decade, it wasn't enough, Reynolds told the Chronicle. "Although I submitted written testimony, we were limited to five minutes, so I spent my time basically explaining how offended I was at the farcical nature of the DEA and ONDCP testimony, denying the possibility of a chilling effect on physicians."

"This is a step on a slow journey toward enlightenment," Flannery told the Chronicle. "In Jerrold Nadler and Bobby Scott, you can't find two better lawyers who are sensitive to these issues, but the Congress is immersed in lots of other business, and it takes a lot to move members from their preconceived notions of what the drug war is about. Very few understand this is about the government invading medicine -- not prosecuting drug dealers. We will have to turn around an ocean liner in order to get action."

But hearings like last week's are a first step. "I've asked for more hearings, but I'm not getting the impression that's the next step," said Reynolds, who was invited to testify by Rep. Nadler. "What I've been told is that we need to educate the Congress. We've been doing that, but there seem to be a lot of closed ears on this issue. Still, more and more, there is some awareness that this is a terrible problem."

Reynolds added that she and others are working with the committee to seek legislation that would ease the DEA pressure on pain doctors. "Both Nadler and Bobby Scott showed real concern and came up afterward and asked what they can do."

Nadler spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chronicle Thursday that Nadler is looking into the matter. "He's very interested in the issue, but I haven't heard anything specific about new legislation yet," Inouye said.

There is a long way to go before America's estimated 40 to 70 million chronic pain patients and the doctors who seek to treat them can live without the fear of the DEA, but last week's hearing was a good -- if insufficient -- beginning, and lays the groundwork for further action.

The written testimony of all witnesses at the hearing is available online here.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Medical Marijuana

Personnally, I'm a veteran. I suffered a Tramatic Brain Injury in "98". Please understand I've been Honarablely discharged since "77".
But I have found,relief from depression, sleep, anxity, constant headaches,and consetration in the use of Marijuana. Like an asprin for a headache(whitch causes liver damage by the way). Where as the medication that I was given me, from the V.A. (leagle drugs) for the same condistion had horiffic side effects, such as social function and interpersonnal relationships. Now the same goverment I served, well. Gave me plenty Alc. and tobacco. I know it was my dessision to do. I was only 17 at the time.(IMPRESSIONABLE AGE) Which has proven over and over again the damage it causes the body and in some cases, our fammilys. But their is no evidence of Marijuana having any damaging effects social or psycological. As do Tobacco or Alc.. But yet its leagle. HUMMMMMMMM ! Somethings wrong with that pitcher ? Insureance and medical care have been affected by thoses leagl drugs(alc.&tobacco).

From An Empathetic Vet


I joined the Navy in 1977 and was honorably discharged 4 yrs. later. As a petty officer Boastwains Mate I can completely relate to the culture of alcohol abuse... and as a young lad of 18 I dove right into this bizarre culture. Being a good hard drinker seemed part of the job description... and thanks to my german genes I could drink like a fish! While many were blacking out... I was just hitting my stride!

Years later as an officer in the Merchant Marines I again routinely witnessed the ill effects of alcohol abuse. From drunkin captains not being able to get their ships underway to transitting very restricted waterways in Canada & Alaska while seriously impaired. I saw this abuse culminate with the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

Illegal marijuana prohibition is largely a byproduct of Western Christian Society... which of course is not based on truth but on the depths of willful delusion.
Alcohol = Pain (headaches, dead brain cells, bar tab, etc...)
Pain = Redemption (and you can't get into heaven w/o it)

Marijuana on the other hand is relatively benign and there's nothing God & Country hates more than something natural & benign... because then God & Country would be out of jobs... having lost their sick appeal & influence.

Lastly, we must take into consideration the huge special interest groups that pay for our representative Gov't... namely pharma companies who hate natural drugs that they can not patent for profit... especially an affordable hearty plant whose main side affect seems to be happiness!

My Libertarian perspective (pro choice on everything) tells me we should insist our representaitive gov't start acting in a legal and lawful manner as described in our Constitution... or remove the criminals as is required by law!

My tolerance for the dictates of the mentally & criminally insane waned long ago!

Billy B Blunt

P.S. "Fear of meaninglessness leads those who are weak in spirit, weak in will, to cling to religion for salvation... religion inverts the love of the earth into hatred of the earthly... Christianity is Platonism for the people" Nietzsche

Drug Policy Reforms is About Power

Individuals can buy tobacco, alcohol (in many degrees of potency), household cleaners that are poisonous (with no age restriction), all of the fatty food that one wants, and MANY weapons and dangerous objects, yet we cannot be trusted to make informed decisions about certain plants and chemicals.

The following are the entrenched powers that benefit from the (violent/oppressive) legal control of access to certain substances; in order to change policy, you have to call them out:
- Alcohol distributors
- Tobacco distributors
- Firearms distributors
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Pharmacists
- Doctors
- Insurance companies
- Organized crime groups, Terrorists, gangs
- Police drug task forces
- Border Patrol Officers
- Coast Guard
- Prison Guards
- Elected officials who receive campaign contributions from any of the above

Including doctors on your list!

You made a generalization that might hurt some peoples' feelings. I am a physician who is no longer practicing, because I chose to be compassionate and properly treat chronic pain patients. Not all doctors are into their six figure incomes! I had not had one for years! The money is not the reward, for all physicians.

But, your list could be indicative when it comes to ignorant physicians, both in practice and on the state medical boards. They are definitely in the "controlling" category! They don't want to keep up with the science of medicine! They just want to maintain the status quot. The VA is certainly not caring for their our soldiers' chronic pain! I cared for a few, who could not get their chronic pain treated at the VA!

The other problem with drugs is the corruption it brings, with many of the participants being caught with their hands in drug traffic, being those on the list above. I saw a recent video on you tube talking about CIA involvement and the Arkansas connection. You should look it up!

I had a family doctor in CA. who saved me until I came to FL.

I had a very caring Dotor in Califonia and I had to move back to FL. and I can not wait to get out of this nightmare. I was on 125mcg of Fentanyl every 48hrs instead of 72hrs and Hydrocodone for breakthrough pain. He gave me my life back after such a long time. I believe it is horrible that they put Dotors in jail for helping people with true pain, instead they should get all agencies off there back and make Dotors treat pain suffers, are be punised. No Doctor should go straight to jail, maybe a fine the 1st time, the seconed time revoke for maybe 6months to a year with anothere fine and then jail. I believe as bad as we need good Doctors we should give them a chance to be redeemed then I am sure most all Doctors would make that change to stay out of jail. First of all the DEA, FDA, AMA and any other agencies need to get off there back and let them do there job in treating pain victems. I have suffered so much and so bad I am suprised I have not killed myself with to hips that need to be replaced and a very screwed up back that is the better part of my pain and I have had to use Nubain to keep my sanity even though I hate needles. I got a wonderful idea lets break a couple arms are legs off all the people that are against you and the patients and not let them get fixed or have anything, but Tylenol and I bet there would be some change. If you have alot of money you can find a way to get help if you are a pain sufferer and if you are broke you are screwed. This makes me ashamed of my own country, it's just sicking and I have considered leaving the U.S., because to them every one is an addict and with severe pain you well not feel ephoria just relief if taking as prescribed and not way under prescribeing like most do if they help you at all. I wish you all the best Doc you are the kind of Doctor we all need and others should look up to with respect. William .

Love Family Practice in Beckley, WV

I was hit buy a truck on a motocycle in 1991, it broke everything on the right side of my body...both bones in leg, hip, pelvis, arm, ribs, fingers. I have a steel plate on my hip with 9 screws in it. socket on pelvis built of wire for 17 yrs now. I went to love family practice in beckley wv, since I had been on percoset 10s for 3 yrs and they hadnt been working because tollerance building up. He automatically put me on suboxen..and called me a narcotic dependent person, if u need narcotic medicine to have quality of life thats what it takes, shouldnt leave people in pain when they can feel better..instead of in creasing pain medicine that was working , just needed stronger milligram . he didnt tell me that once he took over my medicine I couldnt go back to my old doctor, which I feel I was mislead. He automatically put me in his system as narcotic dependent. Now I have no quality of life. cant mow my own grass or anything anymore. I walked into his office now i have to have a cane to walk. he said he would try other options and if nothing worked send me to pain clinic, but now I have been suffering for 3 months, he put me on butran patch, 10 mg for 1 month and now 20 mg for 2 months. I have been telling him Im miserable for 3 months, cant get out of house. yet he gives same medicine for 2 months when I tell him its not working,,,my appointment today was at 1 30 pm didnt get in till 3 30 pm and then he didnt call in scripts for 2 hrs latter. If we didnt need refered to pain clinics they wouldnt exist. when u tell ur doctor u need pain clinic he should send u. hes just sucking medicare dry...$250 for drug screen every visit and $ 190 for office visit. Thats why disabled americans medicare is going broke. someone needs to investigate these doctors., they arent doing whats best for the patints needs.

Written Testimony

It seems that the link above to the written testimony only leads to a summary page of the hearing. Where is the testimony itself? I haven't been able to find it... for some reason.

You have to click on the

You have to click on the witness names.

Medical Marijuana

Why can doctors prescribe codene or morphine, which are more addictive than marijuana, but not marijuana.

Why can all doctors prescribe opiates and not marijuana?

That sure is a good question.

prescribing MJ

They can prescribe MJ in some states!

The reason that many doctors won't, even in these states, is because they are being watched, doggedly, buy the DEA. The cops are telling your doctors, how to practice medicine. They also tell them how much of the controlled medications they can use. All without knowing, one darned thing about pain managment, or just medicine in general. And, if the docs won't listen, they end up with life sentences! Just look it up on our chronic pain mission(!

Medical Marijuana

Doctors can prescribe coedine or morphine, which are more addictive than marijuana, because coedine and morphine are classified differently than marijuana under federal law (see for more information). Coedine is classified as Schedule II, III or IV depending on formulation and morphine is classified as Schedule II, whereas marijuana is classified as Schedule I (no accepted medical use).

In some states, such as California, doctors may *recommend* the use of marijuana to their patients, but they still cannot *prescribe* it. It's a small but important technicality of the law.

? Where can you find out

Information on where to file a complain against a MD prescribing prescriptions without regards to the addiction? Long storty short my husband was released from a 30 involuntary commitment to detox his doctor was informed less than 24hrs out he was already given a script for percocets. Actually even offered him oxycontin!! Help!


I think most pain doctors would be afraid to write for anyone just coming out of detox. That is, if the patient told the doctor! Don't assume that the hospital is going to tell, the patients primary care or specialist physicians, that they have been detoxed. It could be against the wonderful HIPPA laws!

I think one might look into the fact that it was an involuntary comittment. I had many pain patients, whose families were well informed, that knew some behavior was not addiction. If a real pain patient gets meds, his life is improved. If a patient is just taking to meds to get high, then he needs his butt kicked out! They are the ones that cause doctors to lose their abilty to care for the patients, really having pain! I had no sympathy for them. And, many patients were dumped for unacceptable behavior. But, just remember, there are many other circumstances surrounding the patient. If a doctor knew a patient had chronic pain and refused to treat it, they could get in trouble, too! They have been sued and disciplined by medical boards for inadequate pain care! We doctors are stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is made even harder by people who do not understand what medical care is being supplied. HAS ANYONE EVER GONE TO THE DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENTS WITH HIM?

And if the doctor is informed and still giving out the meds, the medical board in the state can decide whether or not the treatment is correct. Remember the Hurowitz case? The medical board did not take his license because he was practicing within acceptable medical standards. Those standards are argued by the experts. That results in the DEA telling doctors how to practice medicine, with the games they play in federal courts!! So the cops know more than the doctors, with years of education!! Courts are nowhere to be deciding who should and should not get certain types of medical care!

One must realize the difference between taking pain medication every day and developing tolerance and physical dependence. That does not indicate addiction, per se. Addiction is a complex problem that includes craving and continued use, in spite of negative consequences. If the person has chronic pain, I guess we could offer them a bullett! Most would tell you it is better than living in severe chronic intractable pain 24/7!


The doctor was informed this man is a 20 year addict to pain meds. AS I WRITE THIS HE HAS TAKEN 20 PERCOCETS TODAY from yet another script.
My brother in law also was a recovering addict spending the last 10 years mostly clean until he was written a script for Oxycontin his old habits quickly returned the night before he was to enter detox that he had chosen to go too he died in his sleep. He left behind 3 children 1 that he actually had custody of and was only 2 years old.


I did just file a complaint with the state complaint department.

I disagree chronic pain patients who are addicts that have proven time again they are MED SEEKING the MD's should listen to the families...if not the families in my case the ER visits and NARCAN doses from the repeated overdose. Pain management I think not.

The is fully aware of his liver function decline he continues to insist Ultracet with Percocets isn't to much. I suggested Methadone figuring that has pain management benefits and he would have to go a clinic to get it...his doctor offered to write a script.


He was clean for over 13 months his life was good. He functioned he had hope, he was active now he is none of the above.

Addiction is a complex problem that includes craving and continued use, in spite of negative consequences.

He lost his family, his children, his first wife, his buisness, his home, license, his health and his independance. He had pancreatitis at just 31 years old leaveing him a brittle diabetic.

Apparently this is the wrong blog to write on I understand doctors need to treat pain complaints. I have lupus when I complain of pain i have never been offered a narcotic nor am I a dx'd opiate addict.

Playing Dr. ?

Iam sure most if not all smart and educated people if they knew all the facts would find it so ridiculious that the DEA is using our tax $ to go after Dr. treating patients with chronic pain and making these patients suffer needlessly becasue of their biased opinion of how a Dr ,who has spent years in medicial school feels whats best for the patient into a crime ! I believe that in a truely free country that all adults would have access to whatever medication they feel they need to improve the quality of life for them ! The DEA needs to go back to school and learn what their real job is suppose to consist of ,and harassing Dr's and patients is certainy not listed as one of their job task ! With tons of illegal drugs crossing our borders on a daily basis ,all I can say is how dare they !

get educated?

I could not have said it any better! The drug war is a failure! And they go after the easiest targets they can find!


how much money does the cotten and timber industry spend lobbying (bribing) congres. hemp can make paper and cloth....

ignorance again?

Anyone who knows, industrial hemp is going to ruin any medicinal hemp if placed in the same field! They cross pollinate, so far as I have read, resulting in a useless form of the hemp--industrial hemp! Industrial hemp should be taken off of the drug list. This is just a power struggle with the DEA. Power hungry, are we? Why did they become cops?

Why, in the world, would a sensible society import something like hemp?!? The reasoning is not scientific! It seems to be driven, right now, by conservative Christians, like me! Except, they do not know any better!

The Bible says "my people perish for lack of knowledge" The use of wine in the bible shows that there is either arrogance and ignorance, among our brethren. Alcohol is not prohibited! Don't try to tell me it was grape juice! The word in my Greek Bible is translated alcoholic wine. It kept,while grape juice did not! INDUSTRIAL HEMP WILL NOT MAKE ANYONE HIGH!

Any smart and reasonable Christian should know that the hemp is completely useless for druggies! It is also, likely, 80% of what the DEA, and drug task force people, are pulling up, in its natural state (wild), in our national forests. Then they claim they are pulling up illegal drugs!!! It has been reported, before!

Re: Ignorance Again?

So what you are telling us is that this is not a war on dangerous drugs, but a war on getting high.
That would explain why there is currently a campaign to outlaw something as obscure as Salvia here in Texas, as they have already done in Louisiana.
I can take you out to nearly any weedy field in the United States, and find plants that will cause euphoria, if ingested properly.
It's time to lock the irresponsible parties up in the same jails that they built for us. We threw the Puritans out of control a long time ago, and for good reason. Don't be afraid of them, expose them!


how much money would be lost or cells emptyed if pot was legal in privit prisons..

how much money do they spend on congres


are the DEA just hired thugs protecting underground proffets???


After 4 years of controling my back and leg pain through the use of hydrocodone medication, always the same prescription (no increase), the only place I found that I could get it in a quantity that would help the pain has apparently been closed down by the government two or three months ago. I am now back to constant uncontrolabe pain. My younger brother had back pain also but he was talked into having sugery to correct the problem. After three surgeries, he cannot stand straight and cannot work, but he now has access to the same pain medication and quantity that I had been taking for 4 years. It appears that if you let a doctor carve you up and pay him thousands of dollars to fix you where you can't walk, stand, or work, you can finally get some pain relief but there is absolutely no quality of life left. He is slowly killing himself now with a combination of medication for the pain and alcohol for the loss of quality of life, which is legal. I don't understand this unless someone is making a lot of money off of this travesty or someone just loves the power of controlling peoples lives. I am 64 years old so I don't have a lot of time left anyway. I will commit suicide before I submit to this kind of abuse but it really sucks that this is the only two options one has with our present BIG BROTHER mentality. I pray that all of the government officials and their families die in horrible untreated pain.



Harrassment and Abuse Perpetrated by the VA

Just prior to my discharge from the Navy in 1975, I spent around six weeks in a military hospital. I was being treated for exactly the same symptoms that I am being treated for now by the VA.

The VA, however, says that I was never there, that I am not service connected, and has created a list of charges against me, including:

Narcotics addiction.
Convicted felon.
Mental illness.
Alcoholism. a number of smaller "charges". None of these things are documented, nor can they be proven, but it would appear that the mere accusation is enough to warrant abuse and refusal of medical treatment. The truth is that a majority of these people couldn't tell the difference between a rock of crack and a can of beer to save their lives.

My VA check is not enough to pay my way through life, so I have been trying to work part-time through a job service provided by the Department of Labor. The VA found out and told me that if I did not stop trying to work, and improve my life, that they would cut my check off.

I have been through chemotherapy twice, which actually caused my conditions to worsen (I have liver disease, caused by inoculations that I received in the service). Beginning in 2005, their campaign against me intensified, and I have been refused further medical treatment since that time.

Because of this, I consider them to be murderers. I am also being refused pain-killing drugs, so I have to obtain them illegally. Whenever I confront them and ask what they think they are doing, they just sit and stare like a lot of stupid cows.

I have told them (literally) hundreds of times, that I do not use illegal drugs, that I have never been in prison, that I am not mentally ill, nor do I drink. They really don't seem to care about that.

I would really like to hear from other Veterans who have had this done to them, so that we can expose the people behind these policies, and put an end to them, so that no one else dies because of it.

I think a class-action with 100,000 grievants would be very effective.





Advocacy for treatmenr of pain


I would like to file a complaint regarding my visit to the Pain Clinic the afternoon of 5/12/2009.  I would also like to ask that Dr. Mark Wilson be given a copy of this complaint because he knows me and can get my chart and find out what the nurse practitioner, D' Ann Somerall CRNP is doing in giving or with me the case is that she would not give me my prescriptions on 5/12/2009 and accused me of several things such as not realizing how strong the medications I take are, taking more of the medication than what is prescribed and trying to get refills too soon, lying about the dates I had been in the Pain Clinic for the past several months or that someone might be stealing my medication which I know no one has been stealing my medication and I have not been over dosing or trying to get my prescriptions early.  I got my Blue Card back in October of 2005 because my husband had to retire from his job as a police officer due to silicosis disease he acquired while he was employed at ACIPCO for ten years and we lost our health insurance and I had no money to continue medical care at the Kirklin Clinic and I had no money to purchase my medication which was approximately $600.00 per month just for my medication.  Since 11/2005, I have went to the Pain Clinic, given urine for their testing and never had a problem until today (5/12/2009), when “I had the pleasure” (totally sarcastic remark) of being sent to talk to this nurse practitioner who I have never seen during the almost 5 years that I have been coming there. Anyway, this is what happened today.  I called the clinic on the evening of 5/7/2009 and left a message that I needed refill prescriptions for Percocet, MS Contin, Robaxin and Prozac and that I would need to pick them up on 5/12/2009.  I signed in to pick-up my prescriptions.  I arrived at the clinic around 2:30 P.M.  I sat in the waiting room 30 minutes and there was no other people sitting out there.  I sat there a little longer and finally asked the lady at the sign-in window if there was a problem with me getting my prescriptions.  She called someone in the room where you get a cup, go get your urine sample, take it back to that room and sign in a book verifying that you have received your prescriptions.  The lady handed me the prescriptions and I noticed there were only three prescriptions and I had called in four and looking at the prescriptions I asked her what happened to my prescription for Percocet.  She goes and asks Ms. Somerall about my Percocet and everything went downhill from there.  She said I should not have been given any medications because I was there before my medicine was to be filled and she ripped off  the prescription they had given me for MS Contin.  I had already signed the book saying I received MS Contin.  She said I could keep the prescriptions for Robaxin and Prozac.  I showed her my empty bottles from the pharmacy purchase I made in April, 2009 and told her she could contact Plaza Discount Apothecary at 205-674-0680 and they could verify when my prescriptions were filled and would probably fax her a copy of the prescriptions that the Pain Clinic had given me.  She said my bottles meant nothing to her and that if my pharmacist filled my prescriptions on 4/17/2009 that he could be reported to DEA for filling narcotics before the time they were supposed to be filled.  They said that I had been to the clinic two times in April.  The first time was 4/12/2009 and again on 4/22/2009.  I don't think I have ever been to the pain clinic two times in one month especially in 4/2009.  After all her accusations and not counting my empty bottles or even trying to listen to me or contact my pharmacist, she said she would give me a prescription for four days of Percocet and that when she gave me that prescription I would have to sign a form stating that I had violated the rules of the pain clinic and was non-compliant.  But then, she said she would not give me the prescription for MS Contin. I had already signed the book saying I had received that presciption.  She said that I would have to come back on Friday (5/15/2009) at 1:00 P.M. to get my Percocet and MS Contin prescriptions.  I did not take the prescription for four days of Percocet because I have not violated any rules and I want to make sure that it is noted in their book that I did not get the prescription for MS Contin today, 5/12/2009 (I really doubt they made any notation of this fact).  Their rule is that you have to call them three days before you need your prescriptions so the doctor will have time to get them ready.  So, now they only give you a 28 day prescription for narcotics.  When I call them, the day I walk into that clinic I am out of medicine so I start my counting 28 days beginning with the day I get my prescriptions because I leave there, go straight to the pharmacy and take my medications beginning with that day.  I know you probably think this is just a bunch of dribble but I want someone to investigate me through the pharmacy or any other way because someone has some serious false information concerning the medication I get from the Pain Clinic in my file.  This is how my medications have been filled starting with March, 2009 which is the month she started with saying I had been getting my prescriptions early:  Prescriptions picked up and filled on 3/19/2009; prescriptions picked up and filled on 4/17/2009; called prescription line on evening of 5/7/2009 and requested the four prescriptions mentioned in this note earlier and advised them that I needed to pick-up them up on 5/12/2009.  Counting from 3/19/2009 to 4/17/2009 is 30 days; counting from 4/17/2009 to 5/12/2009 is 26 days and I said I would be there on 5/12/2009 because I was trying to follow the instructions stating that if my last name began with an "H" that my day for prescription pick-up would be TUESDAY.  Ms. Somerall kept me in her office until after 5:00 P.M. badgering me and asking me what happened to my medicine since I was trying to get refills "SO EARLY". I picked up the calendar she had been shoving in my face counting days and she jerked it away from me and kept saying I was not counting the days correct.  She had gotten me so upset I don’t know if I was counting them correct or not.  She just kept talking on and on and I finally told her I was tired of listening to her since she was so sure she was right and would not listen to me or contact my pharmacist.  Of course everyone had went home and I had no physician or administrative person to help me.  Outside the clinic there was a man who said he had just seen Dr. Wilson in Clinic A.  He said he was thrown out of the pain clinic due to a confrontation he had with the personnel in the pain clinic.  I have asked about Dr. Wilson many times and the people in the pain clinic said he no longer worked there.  The way they said it, I thought he had left Cooper Green Hospital.  I need help.  I never want to see Ms. Somerall again.  I would like to see Dr. Wilson.  He knows my situation and how I have four missing left ribs, the lower lobe of my left lung is missing, part of my sternum is gone and 22cm of muscle and tissue have been removed below my breast, my diaphragm has been reconstructed and my chest is stuffed with Goretex mesh to protect my heart and my lungs.  All this happened because of a 13cm sarcoma that was in my chest under my left breast.  I told Ms. Somerall that I have enough on my plate just trying to halfway live and I cannot handle harassment about my medication I have been on for five years with a clean urine sample every month and have never had any problems with my medication until 5/12/2009.  I am going to call Dr. Wilson's secretary on 5/13/2009 and I would appreciate it if someone will give him this letter so he will know why I am calling him.  Also, I left Cooper Green crying and upset around 5:30 P.M. (5/12/2009).  In getting to where our vehicle was parked in the Cooper Green parking deck, my foot hit some debris inside the parking deck and I fell.  I have two skinned knees with my right knee bleeding, a bruised left shoulder and injury to my right hand which I tried to use to not fall.  Unfortunately, my right hand did not keep me from falling.  So, I now have more pain from the fall and could not even be seen within a reasonable amount of time concerning my injuries.  We went into the emergency room and it was filled with people trying to see a doctor.  They said I would probably have to wait several hours.  I was upset, tired and hurting and I just wanted to come home where I could at least lay down.  I don't want to stir up trouble but I need someone to PLEASE HELP ME.  I want to see Dr Wilson from today (5/13/2009) and until I pass away or have to be put in a nursing home.

Karla J. Hogan


I was told by Ms. Somerall that I could return to the clinic on Friday, 5/15/2009 between 1:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. to get my prescriptions and that she could page Dr. Shuster and he would come and discuss my medications with me. I arrived at the clinic around 1:30 P.M.. and signed the sheet showing that I was there to pick-up my prescriptions. Nurse Parker called me to come back to the room to get my prescriptions. She was there the whole time Nurse Somerall had harassed me a few days before and she heard everything Nurse Somerall said. She started to hand me a cup for a urine sample and I told her I had given a urine sample when I was there on 5/12/2009. She then had me sign the sheet to get my prescriptions and handed them to me. I told her that Dr. Shuster was supposed to come to the clinic and talk to me about my medications and she said he was not available so I left and went to the pharmacy and went home.


I was given an appointment to return to the clinic on Monday, 6/8/2009 to see Dr. Shuster, My husband was with me because of all the things that had happened during the past month. Basically, Dr. Shuster and Nurse Somerall had gotten together and when I went in the exam room, he tells me that he is going to quit giving me my prescriptions for Percocet and Robaxin. I tried to talk to him about the condition of my body and the fact that I cannot walk around and function without pain medication. He told me that I needed to go out to the waiting room and wait for my prescriptions because he was not going to negotiate with me concerning my medications, I usually got a prescription for Percocet that had instructions to take two tablets three times a day as needed for pain (28 day supply - 168 tablets), He also said my prescription for Robaxin was going to be discontinued. My prescription for Robaxin normally read to take one tablet three times a day for pain (28 day supply - 84 tablets).. I left the clinic that day with a prescription for Percocet that read take 2 tablets by mouth twice a day for 1 week then take 2 tablets once a day for 1 week and then stop taking Percocet (number of tablets 42). My Robaxin prescription read take 1 tablet twice a day for 1 week and then take 1 tablet every day for 1 week then stop taking (number of tablets 21). It was also stated on the prescriptions that they could not be filled until 6/12/2009. I was given an appointment to return to the clinic on 7/1/2009. Approximately two and a half weeks after I left the clinic on 6/8/2009, I called and talked to Nurse Somerall about the fact that my pain was not being controlled while I was taking the medication as prescribed. I told her I needed to talk to Dr. Shuster because I needed more Percocet.and Robaxin. She said Dr. Shuster would not prescribe more Percocet. After arguing with her, she said she would mention it to Dr. Shuster and if she did not call me back that I should assume that Dr. Shuster’s answer was “no more Percocet”. I did not receive a return phone call.

July 1, 2009

I returned to the clinic on 7/1/2009 after spending several weeks of suffering with pain and barely being able to get out of bed. Nurse Somerall was the one that called me into the exam room and Dr. Shuster was not even in the clinic. She asked about my Percocet and Robaxin and I told her that they were gone because when you reach the point where you are crying and praying because of the pain, you have to take something to help the pain. She asked me what my pain level was that day and my answer was 10+. She said that the MS Contin should have controlled the pain after the Percocet was gone. She paged Dr. Shuster (she said he was somewhere in the hospital). He came into the exam room and stated that if I was having pain while taking the MS Contin that I obviously did not need to take it either. My normal prescription for MS Contin 30mg stated to take one tablet every 12 hours and to not take more than 2 tablets in 24 hours (number of tablets 56). Again, he said there would be no negotiating and gave me a prescription for MS Contin 15mg that stated to take one tablet every 8 hours (number of tablets 21). I was not given a return visit date and time so I guess since my medications have been discontinued they no longer want me to be a patient in the Pain Clinic. I do not understand what is going on in the Pain Clinic. As I mentioned before, I have been going there since 10/2005 with no problems until Nurse Somerall decided to make me her target to torture. I am also very upset because Dr. Wilson would not try to help me and find out what was going on since he was the doctor who put me on these medications almost five years ago. Dr. Wilson’s secretary told me that he said he was not going to intervene in whatever was going on in the Pain Clinic. Why was the other gentleman being seen by Dr. Wilson because he had a confrontation with the people in the Pain Clinic? Is my inability to function not important? Is this man’s need for pain management more important than my needs? I need help. My having to stay in bed and cry because of my pain level is disrupting my whole family. There are three other people in my household which include my husband who is disabled due to lung disease and degenerative arthritis of his spine; my 21 year old son who has Crohn’s Disease and problems with his legs and joints; and my daughter who is 18 years old who has undergone two heart surgeries and two foot surgeries. Some days there may be only one of us who is able to take care of the others as far as getting food and something to drink for everyone else. When taking my medications I try to take care of everyone because I am a mother and a wife and I know they depend on me. I have a friend who did some research on Dr. Shuster and she said she could not find any information showing that Dr. Shuster had any experience in pain management. She said he was a psychiatrist and had worked with palliative care for people who had terminal diseases, Do I need to be dying in order to get pain management? I have lived longer than what I was told when my tumor and half my body was cut out. I would like to continue living as long as I can and not be bedridden. If I cannot find a doctor to get any pain medication by tomorrow, 7/9/2009, I will probably have to be put in the hospital and I will have to go through that with all the other pain I have been living with for the past month because of a nurse practiconer who thinks she knows everything about pain and a doctor who cannot practice pain management unless you are laying in bed dying. I wish both Nurse Somerall and Dr. Shuster could have four left ribs removed, part of their left lung removed, part of their sternum removed, their diaphragm reconstructed, all tissue and muscle removed from underneath the right breast to their left breast and Gore Tex mesh packed in their chest to protect their heart and what is left of their lungs and then have the skin flaps glued together over the mesh. I would like to see how much they can do under those circumstances without anything to control pain. Dr. Shuster’s famous comment saying that if I was having pain when taking medication that I did not need the medication. I have not had a pain free day for thirteen years. For three years I went to doctors telling them that I could not breathe when I tried to lay down. I sat in the floor, rolled around on the floor and tried to prop myself up on the couch so I might be able to sleep a few hours. All of the doctors told me that I had acid reflux and I was given Prilosec, Zantac, Pepcid etc. and none of those medications helped. One doctor told me he thought I had some kind of bed phobia and prescribed Xanax. The Xanax actually help for a little while. During these thirteen years, I went to work and did not call in sick because of a lack of sleep and being in pain all the time. I had children who were involved in dance, school bands, soft ball, pageants, piano lessons, etc. and after work I would make sure they went and participated in their extracurricular activities. I made sure they did their homework, got something to eat and took a bath and went to bed at a time where they would be ready to get up the next day and do what they needed to do. In November, 1998 right before Thanksgiving I went to the doctor because I had a lump growing under my left breast. My ribs were actually being pushed out also. The doctor examined me and said he did not see any great difference in my left rib cage and my right rib cage. They took a urine sample and noted that I had some blood in my urine and I was scheduled to undergo an IVP. After the IVP, the doctor told me that my kidneys were O.K. and that there were no kidney stones or infection. I asked him about my left rib cage and he said I probably just had some arthritis in my rib cage and to take Aleve as needed for pain. The report from the IVP did state that there was a shadow over my left kidney but he said that the shadow was from the x-ray not being processed correctly. So, I kept going with my pain, taking Aleve and trying to have a nice Thanksgiving with my family. The lump under my left breast kept growing. One day after the first of December, 1998 I was standing by the fax machine and a lady who worked in the office next to mine asked me if I had an appointment to see the doctor again. She said she asked because when she saw me standing at the fax machine and she had a sideway view that she could she the lump under my clothes. A few days after that, my rib cage was hurting really bad and I just started crying while at work. The doctor I worked for told me to just schedule a CT scan with him being the doctor ordering it and I could be satisfied that nothing was wrong. I had the CT scan at Kirklin Clinic and the doctor I worked for had left the operating room and was sitting in a chair in front of my desk. He told me I had an 8cm tumor in my left chest wall. He said he would get one of the other doctors to do a biopsy but I needed to go home and talk to my husband about what the CT scan had showed. You see, the very strange fact was that I was working for a doctor in the General Surgery Department at UAB and the doctor I worked for actually specialized in cancer surgery in the liver, pancreas, etc. So, I had sat there for three years trying to get someone to find out what was wrong with me and the doctors I went to said there was nothing wrong. Things moved fast after that CT scan and I was scheduled to have surgery on 12/16/1998. We were told the tumor was encapsulated and they should be able to just remove it. When I was finally halfway awake a few days after the surgery, I was told it was a lot worse than they thought it was and besides removing all these parts of my body, the tumor had grown to 13cm one week after the CT scan. I tried returning to work six weeks after the surgery. They gave me pain medication to take so I could work, but with the pain I was experiencing while taking the pain medication, I had no patience with anyone and was on the brink of having a nervous breakdown. In February, 2000 I had to go home and was not able to work. The pain I had the three years before the tumor was found and the pain I have now with no pain medication is very hard to describe. It feels like I am having spasms in my chest. It feels like someone has a drawstring in my chest and is pulling it tighter and tighter. When you try to lay down it feels like you are drowning and there is always a dull burning feeling in my chest and in my back. The pain medication does not take away all of the pain but it does keep it from becoming so bad that I sit and cry and the medication does make it possible for me to at least get up and walk or sit and watch television. I know only women can relate to the fact that I feel a huge part of my life was taken away also. I have friends who are in their late 30s and 40s and they say that they feel better than ever, have more confidence and tackle problems with no second guessing. I usually do not go out to eat and sit inside a restaurant because I cannot wear a bra since my surgical scar is exactly where the bottom elastic part of a bra fits onto your body. I have been married to the same man for 31 years and it devastated me when my husband said that I was an embarrassment due to the fact that my breasts are not small and it is hard to conceal them especially in the summer when everyone wears t-shirts, etc.

I have a high threshold for pain. I never even took Tylenol until all this happened. I had three miscarriages and I had my three children and I never had anyone offer to come and help me. I have taken care of my children through some very serious medical conditions and no one offered to help me. My husband was a police officer and he worked night shift and weekends. Me and the children did our things during the day and on weekends, so he was never around to help us and we rarely saw him unless he was going to work and we were coming home and passed each other. There is one thing that I am extremely afraid of and that is the pain I experience in my chest if I have no pain medication. Sometimes it feels like I am having a heart attack. Playing with someone’s medications can cause some very serious things in people. A girl I went to school with had a father who worked at U.S. Steel and they used Lloyd Nolan Hospital for their medical care. For years, a doctor had given her mother medication for her nerves. When her father did not work at U.S. Steel they began seeing doctors outside of Lloyd Nolan. The new doctor would not give her a prescription for the nerve medication she had been taking for a very long time. They ended up having to put her in an institution because she could not function without the medication. When she was on the medication she was a very active person and was extremely kind to everyone. Even in the waiting room at the Pain Clinic at Cooper Green, a man in his early 30s was having to use a cane to walk and one of his legs was almost paralyzed. One of the other people in the waiting room asked him how his leg got hurt. He responded to the man and told him he had been seeing a doctor for back pain and that doctor was treating him with Oxycontin. One day, the doctor told him he did not think he needed to continue taking the Oxycontin and when that doctor would not give him the Oxycontin, he had a stroke and was gradually trying to regain use of the right side of his body. In the definition of doctor, he is described as being a friend and a “healer”. There is nothing that says he can ruin your life and do things that can cause you to be even more sick. What has taken the word “healer” out of the definition of “doctor”?



P.O. BOX 223
(205) 647-6611
[email protected]

P.S. Thanks to all of my special friends who helped in preparing this information.


First of all, I would like to comment about my experience with the pain doctor at Cooper Green Hospital in Birmingham, AL. It is my story and it is true. I finally found another physician but he would not give me a prescription for MS Contin.He would prescribe Percocet. I had to go "cold turkey" with the withdrawal from MS Contin at home. I don't remember alot about the first few days. I remember pain, feeling like someone had a string connected to my chest and pulling it tighter and tighter until I could not breathe, pains from where I had chest surgery for cancer beginning in my chest and shooting down my right leg and the sensation of muscles tightening in my legs and the inability to stop my legs from jerking. I would sit up and try to massage the tops of my legs which did not help much but I could not lay down anyway. I remember being nauseated one day and just going in the bathroom and putting my head in the toilet and just heaving because I could not vomit since I had not been able to eat anything for several days. My children had to witness all this. It's not a memory you would like your children to have of you in the future. If you have watched the movie "Ray" about Ray Charles, the one thing everyone should take to heart is the part where he is detoxing from drugs. He was in medical care while detoxing but it showed him suffering and the doctor told him he could give him something to help, but Ray looked at him and said, "No. I want to feel the pain and misery. That way, if I ever think about taking drugs in the future, all I will have to do is remember this and it will stop me". That is so very true. I wake up in the middle of the night with my chest hurting and I have to take Percocet and go prop myself up on the couch to try to help the pain. Many days I am found sitting on the couch asleep. During these times I think about how nice it would be to have the MS Contin so I can sleep and not wake up in pain, but like Ray Charles I think about what I went through when a doctor decided I did not need to take it and the nightmares of withdrawal. So, I am surviving with the Percocet, but I cannot move without pain and do things I used to do because the Percocet by itself does not help that much. Second, I would like to make a comment about something I encountered just last week. My husband had a mild heart attack a few months ago and they had to put a stent in one of his main coronary arteries. He has had continuous problems. I had to take him to the emergency room last weekend and I had been having problems with my left ear hurting and swelling. I decided to sign in as a patient while he was there because it would not quit hurting. Everyone knows, when you go to the emergency room, they supposedly "triage" each person to see who needs to be treated next. Since my husband was having chest pains, they took him directly to the back with no waiting. I went in with him and told the nurse that I needed to be seen also and to please let the triage nurse know I was with my husband and not in the waiting room. It came my turn for triage and of course they ask you if you take any medications. I was a little upset about my husband being ill and my brain was not functioning very well. I sat there trying to remember the names of my medications and finally she just started asking, "Do you take Percocet? Do you take Robaxin?" and I was getting confused because I had never been a patient at that hospital, so how did she know what questions to ask? Anyway, they checked my ear, gave me a prescription for an antibiotic, handed me some paperwork and I immediately went back to where my husband was. I was holding the paperwork in my hand absent-mindedly and start looking at them. I was absolutely shocked. The triage nurse had printed off a list of my medications (I have no idea where she went on the computer for the information) and not only did it show what medicines I took, but it showed the dosage, how many were prescribed, how many times a day I took it, the doctor's name that wrote the prescription and even the last time the prescription was filled and when it could be refilled. Is this "freedom" in the United States or is this an invasion of our privacy? I never signed anything giving someone permission to put all of this stuff on the computer and I did not sign anything giving that nurse the right to be able to look it up on the computer and print it off for the whole world to see. The print out did not show just narcotics, it showed every medication. The people in the United States need to get their heads out of the sand and demand some measure of privacy.

Crohn's Disease Patient

I would like to ask everyone to follow the links below and read about my 22 year old son who has Crohn's Disease. The gastroenterologist will not prescribe him pain medications because he says my son is not experiencing any pain from the Crohn's Disease. He is just passing it over because my son endured multiple injuries in an automobile accident when he was 17 years old. He never experienced pain in his legs until after he was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease when he was 18 years old. When he has a flare of the disease and I take him to the emergency room, they give him IV liquids and pump him fill of MorphIne or Dilaudid. When the pain gets tolerable, they take out the IV and put him in a wheelchair so I can put him in the car and come home. Unfortunately, we have alot of visits to emergency rooms and hospitals when you put his disease together with me dealing with 22cm of Gore-Tex mesh packed in my chest after cancer surgery and now my husband has had a heart attack with stent placement. Please go to these sites and read about my son and let me know if you can help. He has no health insurance so I have not been able to find many doctors to treat him. He applied for SSI benefits almost four years ago and his benefits have not been approved as of today.


Facebook -!/pages/Crohns-Disease-Patient-Needs-Financial-Assistance-and-Prayers/163718533647558 

Facebook - -



Lack of Empathy by our State of Florida

I was injuried  at work on with G.E in 1995, i have been treated by the same Doctor Since the accident, i have been on narcotic meds since then, i have been treat with  oxycodone for about ten years, i don't abuse this medication but for the last 4 or 5 visits  i have not been able to find my same  medication for at least that long,And i have been using the same Pharmacy for a couple of years,my Doctor is VERY Compassionate,so he has been trying to give me a medication that  The Pharmacy will have and it's been alot of trouble every month now,I'm not a drug addict criminal,but you feel like that after going to 15 or 20 Pharmacys,and they all  Say" NO WAY",so  i have to go days some time taking alot less than my normal dose or None at all some times,I don't know if the People causing the Pharmacy to stop selling these medications have any  idea What it feels like with the regular pain and withdrawls,but it's not right,it's down right CRUEL,Well tromorrow  i have to go through it again,my Doctors a GREAT Man,but  i';m sure he's getting tired of this ,as well as  i Am , i don't know what  to do,it seems like someone can help  Legit patience find out how to get our medication,Don't we have any rights any more?,Please if anyone can help me with this issue please contact me ;Michael Kelly,239-690-7364 or [email protected],,if your a Lawyer or even work for the company that makes this medication can help, don't they have an Obligation to the People who are prescribed this medication,?,and been on their medicatin for a long period with NO PROBLEMS,,Then you can't find your medication,,they say in the information page that your not supposed to stop then start ,then stop again with these type of medications,someone should be held accountable,or at least have to watch someone you care about live with pain accute or cronic pain with little or no relief ,then to be treated for the pain and live a pretty normal life,then all of a sudden you can't get your medication and people think your a drug addict,,Please if you can help me find someplace that will have my medication,and hopefully continue to accept my insurance,but the main thing is help me get back on track before my Doctor gets nervous and stops treating me,please let me know what i can do,life is really hard,,when your in pain and sick because of little or no medication,PLEASE contact me with the contact information above,thankyou

William Hurwitz was sentenced to five years in prison

William Hurwitz was sentenced to five years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Hurwitz remains behind bars for what is at best laxness in dealing with some patients who lied to him and resold drugs he prescribed them for chronic pain.

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