DEA is okay with some pain management clinics.

A DEA official told an industry conference that some pain management clinics are legitimate.  When describing the proliferation of pain management clinics, DEA Associate Deputy Administrator Alan Santos told the audience at HDMA’s Distribution Management Conference and Technology Expo that prior to the rapid growth of pain management clinics in Georgia, there were four “legitimate” pain management clinics in the state.  This is consistent with Deputy Assistant Administrator Joseph Rannazzisi’s message to pharmacists at DEA’s Diversion Awareness Conferences (See slide 84).  According to DEA many, but apparently not all, of the often-criticized Florida pain clinics are “prescription/dispensing mills.”  Of course, the legitimate prescribing of oxycodone and hydrocodone is always for pain management, no matter what sign hangs on the prescriber’s office.

DEA rightly points out the harm to individuals and the societal costs associated with prescription drug abuse.   However, as Congress stated in the Controlled Substances Act, these drugs “have a useful and legitimate medical purpose and are necessary to maintain the health and general welfare of the American people.”  Good public policy calls for balancing the benefits to patients of the legitimate use of these drugs and the positive economic benefit of drug therapies which allow patients to be productive members of society against the harms of prescription drug abuse.

Do today’s public policies and DEA enforcement strategies strike the proper balance between access for legitimate patient and preventing drug abuse?