Monday, July 22, 2013
Help Me Howard: No Painkillers
Imagine constantly being in pain. Many people suffer that way, and their only comfort comes from pain medication. But now, a move to stop drug dealers and addicts from getting pain pills is hurting the people the medicine was created to help. It's why one South Florida woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When people are happy, they smile. When Connie's dog Isla is happy, she ...well, forget trying to explain it. Let her show you.
Connie Harrison: "Show them how happy you are. (Isla moves paws up and down) She's a happy little dog."
Every day Isla leaves connie smiling. Every moment of every day, this leaves her suffering.
Connie Harrison: "Three spinal surgeries, plated RSD, the list goes on and on. Chronic pain, 24/7."
In the mid 90s, Connie had surgery for two herniated discs in her neck. She was prescribed Oxycodon, but her body rejected that, and she was left to take methadone.
Connie Harrison: "It takes a little bit of the pain away, but by no means takes all the pain away."
For 27 years she was a loyal customer at Walgreens, where she had her prescriptions filled.
Connie Harrison: "They always had them for me; everything was fine."
Then this summer, Walgreens got hit by the Justice Department, accused of selling millions of pain killing tablets that they knew or should have known were being used illegally. Walgreens agreed to pay an $80 million fine. That stopped the drug dealers from getting the painkillers to sell. But guess who also got hurt.
Connie Harrison: "And because of that, I cannot get my prescription, which I need very badly."
Connie cannot get her painkiller medication, not from Walgreens, not from anywhere.
Connie Harrison: "I called every pharmacy from Delray to Miami Beach. They all said no. They would not take my case."
It pains connie to use her hands to call, to type on a computer. Her doctor told her, without the methadone, she is facing a grim future.
Connie Harrison: "He has told me if I do not get it in time, hospice is the next step. That being said, I'm extremely upset."
The state of Florida did little or nothing while painkillers were sold to addicts and drug dealers. Now they have tried to stop that, but Connie says once again they have messed up and gone too far the other way.
Connie Harrison: "I think that they are treating everyone as druggies, and that is not the case. We were the people these medications were made for."
Well, Howard, the government went after the people dispensing pain pills, but now they have punished people with legitimate medical conditions. Is that legal.
Howard Finkelstein: "The Florida legislature tried to do a good thing and curb pain pill abuse, but in the process went overboard. Now doctors are afraid to prescribe, pharmacies are afraid to fill the pain pill prescriptions, and it's leaving legitimate patients like Connie in pain. Sadly, it's legal, and someone in the Florida legislature has to show some heart and adjust the law."
We contacted Walgreens. A spokesman, Jim Graham, told us, "Because of the abuse of prescription painkillers, health care professionals are striving to find better ways of ensuring those medications are used only for legitimate medical purposes." He added, "As a result, we significantly reduced the number of tablets dispensed by our pharmacies for the most commonly abused pain management medications. Finally, he wrote, "People across the board need to find practical solutions to combatting abuse while balancing patient access to critical medication.
Howard Finkelstein: "Patients who need pain medication may not be aware, but their prescription use is being monitored through a database that police have access to. That's why so many health care professionals are hesitant to write or fill pain prescriptions.
Walgreens also promised us they would call Connie about her prescription, and they did, but instead, she is now going to get her medication, on time, by mail order.
Connie Harrison: "You get three months for the price of two months, and they're always on top of keeping your medication up to date, currently sending you more."
Cracking down on the abusive sale of pain medication is a good thing, but not only is it hurting people who legitimately need the pain pills, it's had another effect. Some people who can't get pain pills are turning to heroin, giving the state another headache to have to deal with.
Pained by a problem that's hurting you? Need some relief? Contact us. You don't need a prescription, just a solution, and we'll break a leg to find one for you ... figuratively, of course.
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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