44% of US Doctors Say Fear of a DEA Investigation Influences Their Handling of Pain Patients
44% of American doctors confess that a fear of a police or DEA investigation into their practice influenced the way that they prescribed medications to chronic pain patients. This according to a recent poll of doctors for the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse.
In response to a rising tide of prescription drug abuse and addiction, the DEA has been quietly working to broaden its powers; moving beyond general enforcement and into previously FDA controlled areas, and hoping to influence clinical guidelines and even drug approvals.
For a short period, after a temporary legislation (2004-2005) DEA drug abuse risk assessments did have the clout to derail a drug's progression to market. The DEA tried to retain these rights, piggybacking legislation to an un-debated appropriations bill in 2005, but was rebuffed. The DEA has since retreated from its aggressive move into clinical practices, but critics are expressing concern about the enforcement agency's influence on the practice of medicine.
Critics worry that should DEA power brokers gain medical influence, not only will doctors' legitimate fears of investigation hamper their ability to practice medicine, but also that drug companies may curtail analgesic product development for fear of DEA influence on the FDA drug approval process.
Current DEA lobbying (and pressuring of the FDA) hopes to have drugs such as vicodin reclassified and more strictly monitored. Doctors also say they see the hand of the DEA in new and prohibitive prescribing guidelines - Guidelines that may call for additional reporting when doctors prescribe narcotic type drugs, or for requiring of doctors greater certification to be able to prescribe "risky" medications.
Those that oppose the moves the DEA has made into clinical practices suggest that a better way to control the abuse of pain killers, while still allowing legitimate patients the medications they need, lies through a national registry of patients. They argue that a computerized database with a patient's prescription history on file and easily accessible offers an effective and humane end to doctor shopping; and the over prescription of some very addictive drugs.
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