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by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

Crackdowns on so-called pill mills – pain management centers where financially motivated physicians over prescribe opioid pain medications – are designed to reduce abuse and overdoses. But in several states, these efforts are impeding access for patients with a legitimate medical need for pain management.

In Florida, efforts to close overprescribing pain management centers has led to an 86 percent reduction in oxycodone-related deaths, a state news source reported in April. But the crackdown has since led to unintended problems for many of the state’s patients with legitimate medical need. One patient explained that she visited 14 different pharmacies before getting the pain medication prescribed by her doctor to treat two fractures in her shoulder, the result of a recent fall. Another patient described rationing her medication because she was concerned about being able to get the prescribed refill.

The problem stems in part from negative press coverage of DEA enforcement, which may lead pharmacies to refuse opioid pain medication prescriptions. One pharmacist reported denying at least 50 percent of pain medication prescriptions brought into his pharmacy. Further complicating matters, distributors are limiting the amount of controlled substances provided to any individual pharmacy. The situation led the Florida Board of Pharmacy to hold a special meeting on June 9 to discuss how to meet patients’ needs.

Florida patients are not alone. In Mobile, Alabama, a clinic shut down by the FBI left patients without treatment – and some without even their medical records, which they need to find a new physician. One patient described pain that made it difficult to pick up her two-year-old daughter and go about her day-to-day life. She has had to expand her search for a new doctor to a 100-mile radius. Other patients face the prospect of ending their medication regimen abruptly. As a Drug Education Councilrepresentative explained to a Mobile news station, “Some of these drugs are very hard to come off of cold turkey.”

For more on the unintended consequences of policies designed to curb prescription drug abuse, watch the Alliance for Patient Access’ “Preserving Patient Access While Curbing Abuse.”

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