At this point, nearly every American has heard about the opioid crisis. With increasing scrutiny from governing bodies regarding opioids, pain physicians are tested in treating patients in the challenging chronic pain population. While non-opioid medications, therapy and procedures have their place in treating chronic pain, what are physicians to do when patients fail all of these options? One treatment to consider is spinal cord and peripheral nerve stimulation.
The Department of Justice designated 12 federal prosecutors across the country as part of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Units. These Units are assigned to areas where the most opioid drug-related deaths have occurred: California, Nevada, Alabama, Central Florida, East Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Maryland. Members of these Units also includes numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement and governing entities including the DEA, FBI, HHS, and other federal and state agencies (Medicaid Fraud Control Units, FDA, IRS, State Pharmacy Boards, etc.). These Units have a specific mandate to target physicians, pharmacists, and ancillary services (addiction treatment centers, etc.).
The AAOS (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons) has recently sponsored some remarkable multimedia public service campaigns. You may remember the recent “Decide to Drive” initiative about distracted driving /texting. Well, their newest is “Painkillers are easy to get into. Hard to escape.” Included in the AAOS statement, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports on an average day in the U.S., more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed and 78 people die from opioid-related overdose. It is considered an “epidemic.” We all have relatives, friends, and patients who have been caught up in and succumbed to the detrimental effects of drug addiction.
A 34-year-old male presented to a family medicine physician for chronic low back pain. The physician is comfortable prescribing opioids and has many patients on scheduled drugs. The patient has had chronic pain for many years and has undergone multiple treatments including physical therapy, steroid injections and many medications. On presentation, the patient was on Robaxin and oxycodone (four times a day). His past history is positive for hypertension and alcohol abuse, although he stated he hasn’t drank in the past year. He works as a laborer.
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