Liberty Vittert: The opioid crisis is real but don’t punish patients with life-threatening pain

Think of a dear friend of yours over 15 years ago, living in fear of getting a migraine, where the pain is so overwhelming that she couldn’t speak, didn’t make noise – even sound itself was too painful, but simply forced herself to bear the never-ending hours of silent tears, vomiting from the immeasurable pain, and trips to the ER when the pain was so sickening that she sometimes fainted from unconsciously holding her breath.

But now, she uses opiates, oxycodone to be precise. It was a life-changing prescription…for the better.

The dreaded word, opiate, that makes everyone in America think she is a drug addict.

THIS IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE PRESCRIPTION DRUG IN US

But she is not. She has a steady job, many extracurricular activities, a loving family, wonderful friends, and is in no way addicted to the painkillers she has been using as needed for over 10 years to control the pain associated with her migraine headaches.

But now, with the government crackdown on opiate prescriptions, she can’t get it.

The government is scaring good doctors from making legitimate medical decisions.

The neurologist she recently went to made her beg for a few pills. She had to sign a disclosure agreement and spend almost an hour convincing the doctor that she would be responsible and not tell other patients that she had been prescribed oxycodone. This was all for the 10 pills that would hopefully get her through one migraine attack. “What do I do if I have another migraine after that?” she asked. Well, the doctor offered a $6,900 a year, just recently FDA approved and not covered by insurance, migraine shot that ‘might’ help. This was in the same breath where the doctor had to disclose personal payment from the company for “speeches” about the benefits of the new shot.

The last time she went to her neurologist and asked for a refill, the doctor said no.

Why is she being denied this life-changing medicine?

The crisis began because pharmaceutical companies and many doctors were more than just irresponsible, they allegedly suppressed information about addiction rates and the danger of opiates at the cost of many American lives and family’s pain. But now, the government has cracked down so hard that the good doctors, the responsible doctors, are so terrified of being seen as pill pushers, that they find it easier to just not prescribe them.

The government is scaring good doctors from making legitimate medical decisions.

Opioid prescription amounts have decreased by 34 percent from January 2017 to February 2019, a number touted by many as a huge success in battling the opioid epidemic.

But even as the amount of opioid prescriptions has decreased, overdoses have soared. The crisis now mainly consists of the influx of illegal opiates. Almost all of the overdoses can be attributed to foreign drug cartels; Mexican-produced cheap heroin and Chinese-produced fentanyl, with a significant proportion entering the United States through the southern border.

Let’s look at the real numbers and compare the number of illegal opiates and the number of prescription opiates in the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seized over 1,500 pounds of illegally trafficked fentanyl in 2017, enough to potentially kill millions of people.

This is in comparison to the number of opiates legally prescribed in the United States (retail pharmacy and mail pharmacy), estimated to be 8.967 billion MME’s (morphine milligram equivalents). While that sounds like a huge number, 50 MME of oxycodone is the equivalent dose of fentanyl, which means the total amount prescribed is about 180 million doses.

So we have only 180 million doses of oxycodone being legally prescribed versus almost 700 million doses of illegally trafficked fentanyl (not even counting heroin) -- and that is only the amount that was confiscated --  imagine how much must actually be successfully trafficked into the country!

The issue is no longer the prescriptions but the illegal opiates flooding our country.

While the opioid epidemic is a real and present danger to the American people, we are focusing on the easy win of decreasing prescriptions, creating even more problems, instead of focusing on the root cause of illegal opiates (heroin, street oxy, fentanyl etc.) being funneled into our country and causing the deaths and pain of thousands of Americans each year…”the law of unintended consequences”.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

To those fighting the opioid epidemic, I am with you and believe in the work you are doing, but some of your methods are hurting people by taking away access to life-changing medicine and not addressing the root cause of illegal opiates.

The pendulum has swung toward blanket regulation, stopping doctors from making medical decisions to help people get the treatment they need. While before regulations were too lax and influenced by big pharma and bad doctors, the new regulations are punishing innocent people in need and allowing victims of addiction to be targeted by the illegal opiates flooding our country.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM LIBERTY VITTERT