The Rx Drug Wars: A New Hope

Friday, August 16, 2013 - by Alix C. Michel and David J. Ward

Right now, a very real war between good and evil is playing out, and it is not playing at your local movie theater. It’s playing out in our own communities between the forces of evil (which includes rogue physicians, doctor shoppers, drug dealers and others) against our newborns, teenagers, injured workers, middle-aged women, and our elderly. The ultimate goal: to get as many of those people addicted to prescription painkillers and then feed their habit. 

The ravages of this war are visible everywhere. From the soaring number of deaths caused by prescription painkillers (every 19 minutes someone dies from a prescription drug overdose), to the growing number of addicted babies (a baby is born in the United States with symptoms of opioid withdrawal every hour), this appears to be a war that evil is winning and threatens to doom our society’s future. The strategies to stem these losses have included the adoption of prescription monitoring programs, heightened law enforcement and tougher sentencing guidelines. Yet the epidemic continues to attack from all sides, like the multi-headed hydra of Greek mythology.

The depths of this problem became painfully clear in the May 1 Public Broadcasting Special titled Doctors Warn Prescription Drug Abuse Can Have Fatal Consequences when Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated: “When I went to medical school, the one thing I was told was completely wrong.  The one thing I was told was if you give opioids to a patient who is in pain, they will not get addicted.   Completely wrong.  Completely wrong.  But a generation of doctors, a generation of us grew up being trained that these drugs aren’t risky.” Sadly, we can add a generation of well-meaning doctors as unwitting participants in fueling this deadly epidemic. 

But out of these very troubled times, a new hope is emerging: focused efforts by the medical community to educate (and in some cases re-educate) everyone of the dangers from the non-responsible prescribing and use of painkillers. Two of the most impressive efforts have come from well-respected healthcare organizations in our own state, The Tennessee Medical Association and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. They are:

-         The TMA’s Brochure 

Earlier this year, the TMA partnered with the TN Department of Health and several other healthcare provider associations/agencies to develop a brochure that can be used to help educate patients on Tennessee’s new Prescription Safety Law. The Brochure describes aspects of the drug epidemic and explains why physicians will be asking patients more and more questions about their own prescription drug use. The Brochure also provides helpful tips regarding the responsible use of prescription drugs. This Brochure is available on the web for all TN healthcare providers to use.

-         The ETCH NAS Conference 

On Sept. 13, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, a leader in the treatment of addicted babies, will hold a one-day conference entitled “The Hidden Epidemic, Living With Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and What the Future Holds.” Sadly, earlier this month Tennessee reported its 432nd addicted baby born this year. On the heels of that news, the ETCH conference sold out almost immediately and due to the overwhelming response from the community, the conference will now also be simulcast live via the web. 

As more and more members of the healthcare community follow the lead of the TMA and ETCH in actively fighting against the deadly prescription drug epidemic, they offer all of us a new hope that we can rescue what seemed to be a lost future.

Alix C. Michel and David J. Ward are lawyers with a combined 50 years of legal experience, primarily in medical and professional malpractice and prescription drug abuse matters. Their expertise in prescription drug abuse prevention is sought nationwide. Michel and Ward presented on “The Legal Issues of Prescription Drug Diversion, Signs and Strategies” at the first National Rx Drug Abuse Summit and can be reached at either alix@michelandward.com or david@michelandward.com.

2 Surgeons At Maryellen Locher Breast Center Named Certified Surgeons For Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery

CHI Memorial announces Betsy Washburn, M.D., breast surgical oncologist at the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, and Mark Brzezienski, M.D., FACS, director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center and plastic surgeon at The Plastic Surgery Group, have been recognized as Hidden Scar trained surgeons for Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery. "They ... (click for more)

TMA Persuades State To Delay Payment Reform Expansion

Tennessee’s largest professional organization for doctors has helped convince state officials to delay expanding the use of a value-based healthcare payment model being tested under TennCare into commercial health insurance plans. After a series of discussions culminating in a meeting at the Capitol this week, the Tennessee Medical Association was able to notify its more than ... (click for more)

Man, Child Killed In Crash On Highway 136 In Walker County; 2nd Child Seriously Injured

  A man and an unrestrained five-year-old child were killed when a vehicle went out of control on Highway 136 in Walker County on Saturday. A 10-year-old in the car was seriously injured. The driver was thrown from the van and was dead at the scene. The four-year-old was trapped in the vehicle and also died at the wreck site at Ponder Creek Road. The Georgia State ... (click for more)

2 People Shot After Domestic Dispute In Brainerd; Corey Moon Taken Into Custody On Saturday Night

Two people were shot during a domestic dispute in Brainerd late Friday night.   Chattanooga Police responded at 11:17 p.m. to the 4700 block of Rogers Road on a shooting. The following are the preliminary facts of that investigation.   Officers were able to locate two victims, Cortez Moon, 23, and Terri Dossett, 45, suffering from non-life threatening gunshot ... (click for more)

Rhonda Thurman: Speaking The Truth About CSLA

One parent called me a “Liar” during Thursday’s Facilities meeting. Others from CSLA have been a bit more creative saying that I spread “misinformation”, “falsehoods” and “spread inaccurate statements”. Then there were more descriptive terms- “arrogant”, “uninformed”, “unprofessional”- if these CSLA parents don’t stop, they are going to hurt my feelings. In this letter, I will attempt ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It Ain’t Gonna Work

In the last seven days, there have been seven different people who have been shot in separate incidents in Chattanooga. On Tuesday, the City Council approved a total $223,656 in street cameras and accessories to take pictures of our gangstas when the cops already know them by first names. Late last month it was announced the Chattanooga Police Department would double our gang violence ... (click for more)