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Thread: Now You See It, Now You Don't: The Amazing Vanishing DEA Pain FAQ

  1. #1

    Now You See It, Now You Don't: The Amazing Vanishing DEA Pain FAQ

    Last week, DRCNet reported briefly on the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Diversion Control Program's sudden decision to remove a list of questions and answers about proper pain management care from its web site ( We vowed then to dig deeper, but with the DEA uncommunicative, a week later more questions remain than answers about the mysterious case of the vanishing "PRESCRIPTION PAIN MEDICATIONS: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals and Law Enforcement Personnel."

    While some doctors and pain patients' advocates criticized the DEA pain FAQ when it was posted in August (, they acknowledged groups were at least attempting to move the pain situation in the right direction. The FAQ was the end-product of a years-long collaborative effort between the DEA and academic pain specialists and was designed to lay out for health care professionals and drug enforcers alike how doctors could prescribe opioid pain relievers such as morphine or Oxycontin without running afoul of the law.

    In recent years, hundreds of doctors have been prosecuted by state or federal authorities or sanctioned by state medical control boards for prescribing practices that are within accepted medical practice but are deemed "suspicious" by the DEA or local law enforcement. This crackdown on "drug diversion" promises to grow even more intense as the White House takes aim at prescription drug abuse, but it also comes at a time when nearly 50 million Americans are suffering from chronic pain.

    With great hoopla, the DEA unveiled the pain FAQ two months ago. In an August 11 press release trumpeting its publication, DEA administrator Karen Tandy hailed it as a model of collaboration and balance. "The medical and law enforcement communities continue to work together to carefully balance the needs of legitimate patients for pain medications against the equally compelling need to protect the public from the risk of addiction and even possible death from these medications," said Tandy. "We look forward to continuing this successful partnership. The DEA is committed to assisting the overwhelming majority of health care providers who successfully strike that balance every day, as well as the law enforcement officers investigating diversion and abuse of pain medications."

    But October 6, the agency was singing a different tune. "The document contained misstatements and has therefore been removed from the DEA web site," read a terse notice posted that day. "DEA wishes to emphasize that the document was not approved as an official statement of the agency and did not and does not have the force and effect of law."

    When DRCNet contacted the DEA this week seeking an explanation, there was none. When asked what the misstatements were and why the DEA now says the pain FAQ was not approved as an official statement after it posted it on its web site, DEA spokesman William Grant replied only that "they are coming up with some new changes, hopefully within the next week or so." Any further information would have to be requested via e-mail. DRCNet has done that. We are awaiting a reply.

    The consensus pain FAQ was produced by experts from the DEA, the University of Wisconsin Pain and Policy Studies Group, and Last Acts (, a national coalition of consumer and professional organizations working to improve end-of-life care through the use of palliative medicine and pain management techniques. Last Acts and the DEA signed an earlier consensus statement stressing the need for "balance" between law enforcement's demand to prevent drug abuse and diversion and the medical imperative to treat the sick in 2001. full article

  2. #2
    Thank you for this post.

    If the DEA can't get it straight what ethical drug treatment is, then how can they expect doctors to keep clear of the law.

    The laws are convoluted and arbitrary to say the least. If I were a doc I wouldn't want to give any controlled drugs because the reporting requirements are too complicated.

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