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.

Fulmer Urges Rotarians To Join Effort To Fight Alzheimer’s, Sign Up For Pat Summitt Invitational

When Alzheimer's disease struck Nanlee Fulmer, her son -- Tennessee football legend Phil Fulmer – decided to fight back.   His goal, he told Chattanooga Rotary members  Thursday , is to help eradicate the disease that attacked his mother.   Toward that end, he urged Rotarians to sign up for the Pat Summit Invitational golf tournament ... (click for more)

Blood Assurance Calls For Community Heroes With "Hero Week"

Community members are encouraged  April 27 through May 2 to become a hero for local area hospital patients by making a critical blood donation during Blood Assurance’s first-ever “Hero Week.” All donations will be sent to local hospitals and save at least three lives per donation. As a thank you for each donation, all heroes will receive a free movie ticket to the movie of ... (click for more)

State Attorney General Says City Council Cannot Make Taxis Not Registered In Hamilton County Go Through Emissions Testing

The state attorney general's office has ruled that the City Council cannot require that taxis not registered in Hamilton County go through emissions testing. The city is dealing with the new Uber taxi service that has an out-of-town owner. Locally-owned cabs have to go through the annual emissions testing. The opinion says that local taxi owners cannot get around the emissions ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Area Bracing For Possibility Of Isolated Severe Storms, Tornadoes Not Ruled Out

The National Weather Service is feeling uncertain about today's weather pattern and has not ruled out the possibility of isolated, severe thunderstorms or an isolated tornado in our area. The greatest threat seems to be between 4 and 7 p.m. this evening. Below is the latest update: HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK...UPDATED NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN 127 PM EDT SAT ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Would Mr. Summers’ Clients…

It was a beautiful day at Orange Grove Friday as the nationally-famed center, which cares for over 1,000 intellectually disabled children of all ages, celebrated its annual “Lunch of Champions” with a packed house in the Bucky Williams Gymnasium. Jerry Summers, who insiders know has done more for Orange Grove than any other man alive, not only emceed the event as he does every year, ... (click for more)