There are definitely mixed feelings in the pain medicine community when it comes to the DEA's new proposed policy statement on prescribing pain medications. While everyone is pleased that the agency has loosened up its prescribing rulesâallowing doctors to write three one-month pain med prescriptions at a timeâthere is some dispute over whether the DEA's latest policy statement represents anything other than the agency doing business as usual. For Dr. Frank Fisher the new policy statement represents little more than "window dressing," he told the Chronicle this week. The problem, Fisher said, was that physicians are still intimidated by the DEA and as a result, chronic pain patients are going untreated. Siobhan Reynolds of the patients' and physicians' advocacy group the Pain Relief Network used the exact same word, "window dressing," to describe the new policy statement. Reynolds, whose husband, a chronic pain patient, died just weeks ago as the family traveled across the country seeking relief for him, talked about a DEA "reign of terror that has cost people their lives, including my husband Sean." But some physicians working in the pain management and addiction medicine fields have a much brighter view. Dr. Howard Heit, a Fairfax, Virginia, physician called the new prescribing rules "a great step forward." The DEA is "responding to the health care community," he said. There is much more. Look for a Chronicle article tomorrow that delves deeper into this. As for those Louisiana heroin lifers, I guess they'll just have to wait another week. None of the people who asked me so urgently to write about their plight three weeks ago have managed to return my repeated calls seeking more information.
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