"Drugs Can Be a Real Pain"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, June 10, 2011

Drugs can really be a pain, especially when you can’t get them. A front-page news article as well as a TV news report this week stated, “There is a shortage of painkillers and anesthetics at hospitals and pharmacies across the country. A crisis is developing in availability of some drugs.”

The coordinator of medication policy and safety at Henry Ford Hospital reported in a Detroit News article, “Shortages have been getting worse and the situation is now critical.” Hospitals are having to hustle weekly to locate and have on hand sufficient supplies of painkillers, anesthesia and various oncology drugs. Patients have been reported to be waking during surgery and experiencing extended wait periods for serious operations. The article stated; “The problem has been developing over the past four years and is now at the worst point it has ever been.”

As we wonder why shortages are reaching record numbers we have to consider foreign countries’ economies afford better health care and that could be driving demand up. Health care officials are said to be having difficulties locating raw materials. Manufacturers claim equipment used to produce many of the medicines is getting old and requires additional service to keep pace with demand.

There always seems to be a justification for all health care problems and most often we are told higher prices will correct them. Regarding prescription drugs, I wonder if higher prices produce more or better medications or just the outcome we are facing now – most people cannot afford them. A major problem arises when insurance companies and Medicare are not willing to pay the increased cost.

What seems odd to me while reading about shortages is to also hear reports that there are too many painkiller centers open to the public. Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was said to have the most in the country and people from all over the nation were flying there to get their meds. If hospitals and legitimate pharmacies can’t obtain the needed supply of painkillers, how do clinics in Florida get them? Has anyone traced how many shipments arrive daily in Ft. Lauderdale and where the drugs are coming from?

I live in Florida winters and watch the area news. Just prior to leaving this year, I noted a pain clinic may be raided and shut down one day, and another —run by the same doctor — open up at a new location the next week. Is there no penalty, other than being shut down, when a clinic is raided? Or are big fines being levied and paid — and to whom?

A major problem associated with clinics doling out pills is that when someone gets their prescription filled, they sell the pills for 10 times (or more) their value. They also get different prescriptions from different doctors under different names. How do doctors keep their credentials, continue to write prescriptions and sell medications out of these clinics? Makes you wonder if Big Pharma prefers doing business on the black market; they are probably not as closely monitored there as they are on the open market.

Another difficult thing to understand is how companies can advertise — “Raise your own marijuana plants” — and sell them when they can only be sold to those with a prescription. Aren’t those prescriptions federally illegal? The media —newspapers, TV, Internet and radio — make big announcements about the black market trades and medicine cabinet and pharmacy robberies. They also report how great the mark up is for these drugs on the street. These informants, as well as companies which teach how to raise illegal products, are contributors to the problem. Many popular Internet sites (perhaps unknowingly) assist in promoting street sales of painkillers as well.

So prescription drugs are fairly easy to obtain illegally, but those really needing them have trouble getting them legally.

As I see it, we need stronger enforcement and much stiffer penalties for those breaking the laws regarding distribution of prescription drugs.

This may take a bite out of the black market trade and free up enough medications for those who really need them.



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