NORMAN J CLEMENT RPH., DDS, NORMAN L.CLEMENT PHARM-TECH, MALACHI F. MACKANDAL PHARMD, BELINDA BROWN-PARKER, JOSEPH SOLVO ESQ., REV. C.T. VIVIAN, JELANI ZIMBABWE CLEMENT, BS., MBA., WILLIE GUINYARD BS., JOSEPH WEBSTER MD., MBA, SHELLEY HIGHTOWER, BS., PHARMD., LEROY BAYLOR, ADRIENNE EDMUNDSON, WALTER L. SMITH BS., LEROY BAYLOR, BS., MS., MS., BRAHM FISHER ESQ., MICHELE ALEXANDER, CUDJOE WILDING BS, DEBRA LYNN SHEPHERD, BERES E. MUSCHETT, STRATEGIC ADVISORS
“How negligent media have helped inflate a deadly moral panic over prescription opioids and ignored the real sources of addiction while hurting people who live with devastating chronic pain.“
By Peter Pischke MARCH 26, 2019
Angela Kennecke is a popular reporter for a television news station in my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Each weeknight, Kennecke is at the anchor desk for KELO, a CBS affiliate, and has been there as long as I can remember. For many people in the “Sioux Empire,” Kennecke’s work on television is a normal part of the day, and they can count on her to tell them how it is.
But Kennecke’s objectivity was shaken in May 2018, when her 21-year-old daughter, Emily, was found dead after overdosing on heroin that had been laced with the opioid fentanyl. This tragedy, which made national news, deeply affected Kennecke and the Sioux Falls community. Now, almost a year since Emily’s death, Kennecke has become South Dakota’s leading reporter on the opioid crisis.
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counted 47,600 opioid-related deaths, three-quarters of which involved heroin or “synthetic opioids other than methadone,” a category that consists mainly of fentanyl or its analogs. In 2011, 2,666 deaths involved drugs in that category; by 2017 the number had increased to 28,466, or 60 percent of opioid-related deaths.
Fentanyl in the medical setting is the narcotic drug most commonly administered during surgery. Outside the surgical room, it is primarily prescribed by doctors in the hospital to palliative care patients due to its high potency, which is 50 to 100 times greater than that of morphine. Unfortunately, fentanyl is also dirt cheap for black-market drug dealers to import from China and Mexico. In recent years, traffickers have increasingly turned to fentanyl as a heroin booster and substitute.
The Rise of Black Market Fentanyl
Although opioid-related deaths are driven mainly by heroin and black-market fentanyl, you would not know that from most of the press coverage, which emphasizes pain medication prescribed to patients who become addicted, overdose, and die. This narrative is “fake news.”
Just 30 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2017 involved commonly prescribed pain pills, and most of those cases also involved other drugs. People who die after taking these drugs typically did not become addicted in the course of medical treatment. They tend to be polydrug users with histories of substance abuse and psychological problems.
Contrary to what you may have read or see on TV, addiction is rare among people who take opioids for pain. In a 2018 study of about 569,000 patients who received opioids after surgery, for example, just 1 percent of their medical records included diagnostic codes related to “opioid misuse.” According to federal survey data, “pain reliever use disorder” occurs in 2 percent of Americans who take prescription opioids each year, including non-medical users as well as bona fide patients.
“The current battle against fentanyl as a street drug has little or nothing to do with American medical practice,” writes Harvard-trained anesthesiologist Richard Novak. “Most of the fentanyl found on the streets is not diverted from hospitals, but rather is sourced from China and Mexico.”
Yet, politicians, law enforcement agencies, anti-drug ad campaigns, movies, and TV shows still put pain treatment at the center of the “opioid crisis.” Kennecke’s reporting has helped perpetuate this false narrative. In a 50-minute news special that aired last December, for instance, representatives of the two largest South Dakotan hospitals brag about cutting opioid prescriptions by a whopping 38 percent. Kennecke asks no questions and shows no skepticism.
While fentanyl is mentioned as a cause of the crisis, prescription analgesics gets much of the blame. A viewer only needs to see the opening image of a black background covered in a waterfall of pills to understand the correlation being made. In her news reports and work for her opioid-addiction charity, Emily’s Hope, Kennecke frequently refers to prescription opioids while talking about deaths caused mostly by fentanyl and heroin.
To be fair, her reporting and charity work are done with good intent, and Kennecke is far from alone in reporting this narrative. You can almost count on two hands the number of journalists in the country reporting on this issue responsibly. But this kind of thing—where someone pushes a specific narrative for a cause without regard to the full context and facts of a story—isn’t journalism, it’s activism.
No one can blame Kennecke, Eric Bolling (a national conservative personality whose son died from a fentanyl overdose in 2017), or any other journalist whose life is affected by a fentanyl death for getting emotional. It is understandable that they feel as strongly as they do. But reporting one-sided and biased information is unethical because their reporting is influential.
For example, Bolling reportedly has President Trump’s ear and helped influence an anti-opioid bill package that Congress passed last year. Activism like this comes with a heavy price.
Cracking Down in the Wrong Areas
Thirty-three states have now created laws that severely restrict opioid prescriptions in response to the hysteria. Most of these laws put hard day limits on prescribers. In Florida, for example, they impose a three-day limit on any prescription opioid for acute pain. The combination of these laws, plus overactive Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, has made pain specialists scarce in states such as Montana and Tennessee.
Due to the media hysteria which in turn inspires political hysteria, it is now harder than ever to get an opioid prescription for those in chronic pain, even though there is currently no equivalent medical treatment to replace the prescription opioids used by 18 million Americans for long-term pain. In 2017, a New England Journal of Medicinestudy found, the number of doctors who prescribed opioids at all fell by 29 percent. That same journal in a more recent study found a decline of 54 percent in prescription opioids by doctors for first-time-opioid patients between 2012 and 2017.
A nationwide survey of almost 4,000 pain patients by Dr. Terri Lewis found that 56 percent reported either disruption in pain treatment or outright abandonment by their once trusted doctors.
So awful is the reaction against chronic pain patients that 300 drug policy, addiction, and pain treatment experts, including three former White House drug czars, recently urged the CDC to clarify its 2016 opioid prescription guidelines, which have been widely interpreted as imposing arbitrary limits on average daily doses. Last November, the American Medical Association approved a resolution noting that guidelines had been read “by pharmacists, health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, legislatures, and governmental and private regulatory bodies in ways that prevent or limit access to opioid analgesia.”
Peter Vaughn Pischke is a journalist and podcast host for TheSiouxEmpire.com. He can usually be found manning the Happy Warrior Podcast: providing commentary on conservative and nerd-culture news and ideas. You can find him on Twitter: @happywarriorp.
PAUL VOLKMAN IS INNOCENT FREE PAUL VOLKMAN
Paul Volkman, a doctor who worked at the Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management clinic in Scioto County and has been linked to Fletcher, was found guilty by a Columbus jury and was sentenced to 4 life terms in federal prison for helping distribute millions of highly addictive drugs that authorities said led to nearly a dozen deaths.
Dr. Volkman worked at three pain management clinics in three towns in Ohio. Obviously, there was a need and not many other doctors were knowledgeable enough or willing to do the job, considering the risk. But like me, Dr. Volkman obviously knew what he was doing. He holds an M.D. and Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Chicago. He had practiced as an emergency room physician as well as in family practice and pediatrics and became a diplomat in the American Academy of Pain Management.
“Volkman’s attorneys had dismissed the charges as a case of “an inflated and irrational fear of the medical science of pain treatment.”
Volkman operated pain-pill clinics in Portsmouth and Chillicothe. A Cincinnati federal jury found him guilty in May of illegally distributing painkillers. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 14 in Cincinnati. Fletcher did not apologize for his actions.
PAUL VOLKMAN MD., PH.D
Supreme Court precedent will not topple quadruple life sentences for a drug-dealing doctor whose prescriptions caused four patient deaths, the Sixth Circuit ruled. During his less than two years at Tri-State Health Clinic, a cash-only practice in Portsmouth, Ohio, that saw 18 to 20 patients a day, dispensing a high volume of pain medication, Dr. Paul Volkman had 12 patients die.
Volkman took the job at Tri-State after a spate of legal woes left him without malpractice insurance or a job in 2003. He obtained both a medical degree and a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Chicago. Investigators found that Volkman had issued one patient with a history of drug addiction a prescription for oxycodone, Soma, Lortab, and Xanax – 660 pills in total.
When local pharmacies became unwilling to dispense the clinic’s prescriptions on the basis of improper dosing, Volkman opened a dispensary in the clinic.
After the feds raided the clinic, a grand jury indicted various officials with the practice, including Volkman, on a series of charges, including unlawful distribution of a controlled substance leading to death.
An Ohio jury convicted Volkman on four such counts, plus other charges, for which he was sentenced to four consecutive life terms. Those sentences were to be served concurrently with the 20 years he got other charges.
All four of the patients whose deaths were tied to Volkman had died within 48 hours of leaving his office with a new prescription.
norm j clement dds
“…racism wears many masks, it is called Jim Crow one decade…only to be disguised as voter ID in another century, preventing election fraud, when no fraud ever exists…when wisdom becomes a threat, the knowledgable are deem arrogant and those learned are imprisoned…in healthcare, we must lead the fight for justice by connecting the dots of injustice…uncovering the unique, cleverly designed barriers erected to inhibit people from seeking treatment and preventing those licensed professionally and whom are capable from delivering proper healthcare…requiring them to view humans as algorithms to be uncared, then only have systemic injustices wage war upon both their souls an affording neither of them dignity and respect…”
” The question is??? What are we going to do about it”
FOR NOW, YOU’RE WITHIN THE NORMS