An Open Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee

An Open Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee

By Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D.

This is edited from a letter sent to 25 legislative assistants of sitting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  One week later, not one of them has responded to it.

Dear Senate Staffer: It is likely that the December 17th article in the Washington Posts will dominate much of the Monday (12/18/2017) news with respect to the DEA’s Division of Diversion Investigation, whose staff your Senator called to testify last week.  The following points may be worth considering and talking about with your boss:

Richard A. Lawhern, PhD

It strikes me that there may be other issues lurking in the morass described by the Washington Post piece

* DEA prosecution of major bad actors in National drug distribution corporations has been stymied by their own lawyers and by local prosecutors.  It seems highly plausibly to large numbers of citizens, that DEA lawyers have been corrupted by the same revolving-door policies which have guaranteed the corporate complicity of Representatives and Senators who anticipate being paid well as lobbyists or defense lawyers if they are miraculously turned out of office by voters.

* Unable or unwilling to pursue the truly major players in drug diversion, DEA instead goes after the low-hanging fruit:  small, independent pharmacies and pain management doctors in local practices.  One of these doctors is Dr. Forest Tennant, one of America’s preeminent pain management specialists, whose office records have recently been seized in a transparently obvious miscarriage of justice that amounts to unlawful persecution.

* When they attack individuals, DEA “Diversion Investigators” lack the tools and training to distinguish between smaller scale pill mills versus doctors who specialize in difficult cases where high dose opioids are the only therapy that works. This was almost certainly true concerning Dr. Tennant.

* Lacking such tools, DEA prosecutors instead frequently lapse into illegal and extra-legal practices:

  • Prominent announcements of doctors under investigation, intended to ruin their professional reputations and influence potential jurors.
  • Confiscation of doctor (or pharmacy) assets, to render legal defense more difficult.
  • Suborning witnesses by threatening prosecution unless they testify to doctor misbehavior.
  • Entrapment by carefully prepared investigators who disguise themselves as addicts shamming pain, to demonstrate that their lies can cause a doctor to prescribe for people who are not actually in pain.
  • Deliberate delays of prosecution, grand jury proceedings and court proceedings to put further financial pressure on doctors to sign consent decrees before cases go to court.
  • Exclusion of qualified witnesses when their testimony may support the defendant.
  • Misrepresentation of the actual qualifications or lack thereof, of government investigators and hired witnesses.

There appears to be some degree of merit in DEA investigators’ complaints over failure to prosecute major drug distributors for clear and obvious criminal negligence if not actual criminal conspiracy.  But hidden within this large picture is a second issue of deep concern to millions of people in agony:  DEA is persecuting pain doctors unfairly in a blind attempt to “do something” about a problem where they are unqualified to act with fairness.  Fix the problem with DEA corruption, by all means.  But tell them first to stand down from prosecuting doctors whose only crime is trying to help people in agony.

About the Author:  Richard A (“Red”) Lawhern, Ph.D.  is a non-physician writer, research analyst, patient advocate, and website moderator for chronic pain patients, families, and physicians.  His wife and daughter are chronic pain patients.  His 20 years of experience has produced articles and critical commentaries at the US Trigeminal Neuralgia Association, Ben’s Friends online communities for patients with rare disorders, US National Institutes for Neurologic Disorder and Stroke, Wikipedia, WebMD, Mad in America, Pain News Network, National Pain Report, the American Council on Science and Health, the Global Summit for Diagnostic Alternatives of the Society for Humanistic Psychology, Psychiatric News and Psychology Today

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Richard A Lawhern, Ph.D., is a frequent contributor to National Pain Report. He has over 22 years experience as a technically trained non-physician patient advocate, with 70+ published papers and articles in the field. He is a co-founder and former Director of Research for the Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain.

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Jenny Picciotto

Byron, I am catching up on my reading and just saw your post with the link to the active bill being considered in Congress now, “H.R.4482 – Opioid Abuse Deterrence, Research, and Recovery Act of 2017.”

This bill is written to require more controls on doctors, limit prescriptions, and attempt to legislate away a complicated social issue.

In my opinion, the focus should be on the demand side of the problem. Why are people taking illegals drugs? What are the social factors that lead people to disengage from actively living a positive life? Why isn’t crack or ice, or homelessness, or poverty, or lack of opportunity a part of this discussion.

I will be writing to my Senators. Thank you for bringing this bill to my attention. Keep posting it ~ often!

Medicine cut in half last week.

Feeling awful.

Medicine is the way I can get to my bathroom. I can’t get there now. I just can’t walk without enough medicine.

It’s Christmastime, I’m not supposed to have to figure out how to get emergency help or care. My poor granddaughter.
It kills me this is going to be so devastating for her. (She has no mother, I raised her til she turned 4½, she just turned 5.) And I can’t be there for her.


I too have written signed, etc. etc…no response..oops I did get one response..the stupid form letter……

I have just had my 4th reduction from Methadone……..This is unreal!


Horrible stories. I’m so scared of living without pain meds again. Not only can I not function without them but the pain is unbearable 24 hours per day. What are we going to do? What will become of us? Somebody has to come to our rescue. Keep writing your congressmen and senators, they can’t ignore us forever, there’s way too many of us. I’m going to start emailing senators and congressmen that aren’t from my state, somebody has to care.

In response to comments thus far: No I haven’t read the McKesson response to 60 Minutes. Somebody please post a link in this comments chain.

I will read the laws that have been referenced by Byron

Beyond that, and subject to editorial policy here at National Pain Report, I can post the email addresses of staffers whose bosses sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then you can make your individual voices heard even if these folks don’t feel they need to respond to your pleas for relief from DEA persecution of your doctors – and indirectly of you yourselves. Also possible: Tweet the article link to the attention of Senate Dems and Reps.

I will monitor the comments chain here. Likewise, I encourage any and all readers to post a link to the article in other media outlets. It is time to kick tail and take names!

Jennifer Cloward

Thank you so much for writing on behalf of those of us who are in pain and are being very careful so as not to mishandle the only therapy that works. I am a fibromyalgia patient who needs voices like yours to help me. I thank you with all my heart and pray that those who are ignorant of the true facts will have a desire to either learn or listen to others who know what they’re talking about

Tim Mason

If law enforcement took photos of CII narcotics that they confiscate they would be in little baggies or corners of sandwich bags. You would not see what is depicted on social media articles and fake news stories. They show a prescription bottle with patient label and a needle containing an amber liquid. These two are NOT related.
It is rare that a person is caught with a prescription bottle with their own name on it.
Let’s see the items in the evidence room.
Where is “Freedom of Information”?

Pure Insanity.

One must live pain to truly understand it.
Opioids are tried and true and CHEAP.

Red, I forgot to ask have you seen McKesson response to 60 mins second story on their part in the epidemic?I seen it on you tube and it was great.Also I love to see those DEA officials cry about how they got beat.iam sorry,but I

Red you and me both know they will not respond to that letter.I hope they read it though and it puts a thorn in their side and it will because it’s the truth,and the truth always shines through,it’s just a matter of time.Even then I think it will go slow to correct the way CPPs have been treated by this HEROIN-ILLEAGAL FENTANYL problem.CDC guidelines,DEA doctor prosecutions etc.I think the politicians are afraid to deal with the DEA.I believe that the DEA is out of control and is awash in corruption and greed.I think they spend most their time hiding drug cartels cash and crying about how they got beat by McKesson.My point being the DEA needs to be brought under control.Period.

S. Balsamo

Should the lack of response come as a surprise to anyone? Of course not. The so-called opioid epidemic with all of its sensationalizing and misinformation is today’s cause celebre and few, if any, legislators want to speak for the “other side of the opioid epidemic”. While the rest of the country is only too quick to add a “hell yeah” to every story about big, bad opioids, thousands of people are suffering – some to the point of suicide. The numbers of intractable pain patients being forced to lower dosages or into withdrawal continues to escalate, destroying what were otherwise productive lives. What is possibly most egregious in all this hype is the fact that resources and attention are not being given to the influx of heroin and fentanyl, the substances driving today’s opioid epidemic. Our government is solving for a problem like it’s 1999, ignoring the shift away from prescribed opioids to illicit ones, yet they will still rest easy that they can check of box for getting something done in 2017.

Bob Schubring

Perhaps the tone of the letter was entirely too conciliatory.

The DEA has also proposed a 2/3 reduction in US opioid-medication output in 2018. That proposal clearly presumes that 2/3 of all prescribed opioids are diverted to illicit use and not used to treat pain.

This foolish gamble flies in the face of statistics. 50 million Americans have disabling pain lasting for more than 3 months. Those people need opioids and cannot get them. Fewer than one million opioid addicts, consume diverted opioids. Simple arithmetic tells us that a 2/3 reduction in medication output will cause increased pain and suffering to 50 million patients who cannot get medicine they need. And addicts will continue to buy illegal drugs from organized crime sources.

It’s frankly worrisome that law enforcement officers, including the DEA’s own agents, have a dangerous occupation and suffer injuries in carrying out their duties. Law officers suffer auto crashes, beatings, stabbings, and shootings at the hands of criminal perpetrators and suspects. They require treatment, just like every other injured American.

But the continued attacks on doctors, that have doctors frightened to prescribe pain medication, will make doctors doubly afraid to treat pain, when the victim of the pain is known and identified to be a wounded DEA agent. “Did the agent fake his pain or his wound, in order to test how I run my emergency room?”, the doctor will think.

Unfortunately, people in pain aren’t able to function normally. That’s why we need our medication. Law officers are no different from the rest of us. Law officers in too much pain to work, are going to sit home and suffer, because they, like the rest of us, won’t be able to get pain medicine and go back to work.

Once criminals figure this out and begin injuring more law officers on purpose, how many “police-free zones” will be created, where violent crime rages unchecked, before these Congressional and bureaucratic fools realize that their idiotic oversimplifications about opioids, are killing people?

Given the response Richard got from this polite letter, the repeated mugging of Congressional staffers probably won’t lead to any changes. They ignore important issues when laid squarely in front of them. Don’t disturb the boss, keep him happy and keep drawing a pay check.

I fear it will take 10 or 12 Senators getting mugged or carjacked, for the message to finally get through, that pain relief is an essential part of medical care and our doctors must be allowed to provide it, because if police personnel can’t get pain relief, crime runs unchecked.

The number of letters I haves written to various state and federal legislators, agencies, boards, and even President Obama, have all fallen on deaf ears. If you get any type of response at all, it is usually a form letter letting you know “they care, . . . and by the way, you’re now on their email list, or whatever, . . . thanks for your support.” The McKesson fiasco with the DEA, the attacks on Dr. Forest Tennant and Dr. Lynn Webster, and so much more, show that the government and its’ employees, whether hired or elected, is bought and sold by corporations considered too big to fail or to even touch with prosecution. If doctors are going to jail for prescribing based on information doled out for years by the pharmaceutical companies and more, then it’s high time for those corporate CEO’s and many others to face years of incarceration for their acts that were all done for the sake of money. When Walgreens and McKesson and others are slapped with puny fines of millions, which represents less than a day’s worth of income to them, there is no lesson learned. It will take huge fines and sending executives and lawyers to jail. But NO! They are protected and “untouchable.” So medical providers are accused, investigated, and prosecuted, because “someone” has to go to jail. Go after the big fish who feed off all the rest, not the minnows!

David Cole

Thank you mr. Lawhern, for all that you do to help people in pain. It’s truly appreciated by millions of us, unfortunately most people don’t even know about you. These assholes are picking a community of people that are pretty much bedridden, the last thing they d have is the energy to get up and fight these despicable pieces of garbage.
I can tell you every time I read one of your articles it gives me a little more strength to go in there and fight a little harder each day, if it’s just tweeting writing letters or calling people. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do.
David W Cole

My Congressman Steve Palazzo wrote to the DEA on my behalf. I had a follow up phone call asking if I heard from the DEA committee. To date, I heard nothing. I am suffering from two fail surgeries whereby the screw have come out. I also have Crohn’s, Ankylosis Spondilitis, Fibromyalgia, Depression and a Panic disorder. All of the above have been verified by my Drs.. I have letters in hand. These were also sent to the committee. I have never abused any of my medications which was verified by Drs. ability to check this out. Also, I have never failed a drug test. I to am in agony. It’s a choice between my mental health or lived in excruciating pain. Thank you for your efforts.


I will post again, for the umpteenth time::

Every chronic pain patient needs to be VERY concerned about HR 4482, the Meadows-Renacci “Opioid Abuse Deterrence, Research, and Recovery Act of 2017” .

Contact your US Representatives, especially members of the Energy & Commerce Committee and Judiciary Committee .

I happen to be one of those patients that need a higher than CDC recommend dose of oxycontin, it’s a 15 year old cervical spinalcord injury. I’ve been mg. reduced and live every day trying to manage the pain that is with me. It never stops,it’s my hands,the stinging,burning sharp, stabs of a hot knife into my left hand never stops. I had a neuro-stimulator implanted 2006 and been with one doctor,one pharmacy for all these years at 80mg 2x a day. My doctor was seeing me every 3 months. I was forced to go back to Pain doctor, while I detoxed by myself at home on the couch. It’s 60 dollars a visit and now 2 opiate prescriptions for 75$, my husband has herniated disc this year he hasn’t worked much. Money is running out, my fear is mounting, what will I do if they take the opiate away completely. I will be applying for part B Medicare now since ,husband may lose his job soon. At 58 years old I feel that this is it, I can’t take much more pain and the cost to be in pain. No one is able to help us, we still owe a bit on the house we have worked so hard for. I watch my husband cry at 60 years old that his truck driving days may be over due to his debilitating arthritis in his back. The healthcare insurance he has will end, his 401 will start to deplete and that’s that. I was able to handle the household duties,even with cord injury, before the Opiate epidemic wiped out my meds, now I can barely function to get wood in for the wood stove. I can’t believe the political decisions and those made by the CDC are ruining my life more than the doctor that got away with injuring me 15 years ago.