8/29/2011, New pain-management rules leave patients hurting

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/new-pain-management-rules-leave-patients-hurting/

Denis Murphy’s last doctor got suspicious when he saw him sitting in a restaurant. Murphy, 72, who contracted a painful nerve disorder after a case of shingles, had told the doctor his condition is so painful he often has to stand up. At his next appointment, the doctor accused him of flimflamming him: making up a story to score narcotic pain relievers…

Murphy, a retired IRS pension-plan examiner and manager from Edmonds, was humiliated. Now, he has a new doctor and a new prescription — but also a growing fear that he could suddenly lose the only relief he’s found in six years. Then, he worries, he’ll find himself back in the throes of pain he describes as “a blowtorch to my testicles.” He has reason to worry.

Over the last several months, an effort in Washington to curb a steep rise in prescription-drug overdose deaths — the most ambitious crackdown in the nation — has prompted a number of doctors and clinics to stop taking new chronic-pain patients on opiates, and in some cases to cut off current pain patients…

“A lot of it is because other providers have stopped doing it,” said Dr. Peter McGough, chief medical officer for UW Medicine’s Neighborhood Clinics. “I think there’s been a fair amount of patient abandonment going on.”

Dr. Carl Olden, head of the family practitioners’ group, said pain-management specialists in Yakima are overwhelmed with pain patients, particularly those on Medicaid, who say their primary-care doctors no longer prescribe the meds they seek.

Linda Van De Bogart, 62, an Eastern Washington resident who has an often-painful genetic defect called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, as well as ADD, has been on pain meds for 25 years.

But after being dismissed by her doctor when she and her husband had fallen behind on their clinic bills, she’s had no success finding a new provider after calling dozens of doctors and clinics, she says…

Across the state, more than half of those who died were patients on Medicaid, according to state figures, and the most common pain drug was methadone, increasingly prescribed for Medicaid patients after the state restricted other medications…

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