GOAL: TO PRESCRIBE WITHOUT LOSING LICENSES
Rally for doctors and chronic-pain sufferers
Dr. Ronald Myers, Sr., president of the American Pain Institute's Mississippi chapter, leads applause Thursday
for Virginia Brooks (right) of Greenville, president of the Mississippi Coalition for Patient Rights and Chronic
Pain Management, who calls for legislative support for physicians who treat chronic-pain patients, during a news
conference at the Capitol.
By Emily Wagster Pettus
May 3, 2003
(JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI) - Physicians who treat chronic- pain patients often are scared to prescribe drugs because they don't want to be punished by the state, says Dr. Ronald Myers of Belzoni.
At the Capitol on Thursday, Myers said the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure has been "insensitive" to doctors and patients who live with constant backaches, headaches or other maladies.
"It has created a fear factor across the state," Myers said.
Dr. Joe Burnett, executive director of the state licensure board, said physicians have no reason to fear that their licenses will be suspended or revoked if they are properly treating chronic-pain patients.
The treatment often includes prescribing narcotics such as Dilaudid, a painkiller similar to morphine. Burnett said doctors should conduct regular physicals of their patients, keep strict records of prescriptions and refills, and provide appropriate medical consultations including referring patients to other specialists when needed.
Burnett said he has met with pain specialists and has told them to be "liberal" in prescribing drugs for patients who truly need them.
But "we don't want drugs being diverted to the street," Burnett said.
Myers and about a dozen pain patients and their relatives gathered on the Capitol steps Thursday to call for changes in the way Mississippi deals with doctors who prescribe pain medications.
Myers said he will ask the 2004 Legislature to adopt a law similar to one enacted recently in Arkansas giving physicians greater leeway to prescribe drugs for chronic pain without fear of losing their licenses.
Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure records show that in the year beginning July 1, 2000, and ending June 30, 2001, the board disciplined 17 doctors, two of whom were for prescription violations. The next year, the board disciplined 19 doctors, four of whom were for prescription violations.
Virginia Brooks of Greenville said she has lived with constant pain since she fell down a flight of stairs at work at age 17. She's 43 now.
Brooks said that she has suffered other injuries in car wrecks, and that some doctors treat her with suspicion or indifference when she tells them about her chronic pain.
She said some chronic-pain sufferers need several prescriptions.
"Why can't we get the pain medication we need instead of being treated like junkies or drug dealers?" she said.