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STATE WIDE–Too many doctors are now too scared to prescribe opioid pain killers, said Dr. Barbara McAneny, president of the American Medical Assoc., at the annual meeting in November. Now people in states like Indiana,  where opioids are a major problem, are being encouraged to get a specialist, if they really need pain meds.

She also said insurance companies and pharmacists are on the lookout for drug seekers, and it’s causing people who need pain medications to go without.

The CDC recommended two years ago that primary care doctors restrict prescriptions for serious opioid pain meds to seven days, and recommended a maximum dosage. 

“When the CDC made these recommendations, some of the states took them very seriously, even doubled down. So everybody started putting their own restrictions on them,” said Dr. Rosemary Bates, an internal medicine specialist, with a practice in Plano, Texas.

McAnany told a story about a patient of hers who needed a large prescription for morphine because of metastatic prostate cancer in his bones. She described him as a very proud man. When he went to get his prescription, thanks to the prior authorization process, he was not given his prescription.

The man was accused of being a drug seeker.

“My patient, a very proud man, felt shamed and didn’t know what to do. So, he went home to be as tough as he could be. That worked for about three days, and then he tried to kill himself,” she said. His family saved his life.

But, McAany said the prior authorization system needs to be fixed.

“The health plan does not have the chart, doesn’t know the patient, and basically countermanded my orders without even telling me—using the prior-authorization process,” she said.

Bates said people who really need pain medication, like cancer patients, can help themselves by finding a specialist.

“I would recommend that anyway,” she said.


Bates also said that new drugs are being developed that might serve those people well.

“There’s a drug in the pipeline which hits the pain receptor, but doesn’t give you any of the highs.”

She also recommends alternative therapies like yoga and physical therapy.

PHOTO: Getty Images/Charles Wollerts