Editor’s Note — We have received and published dozens of comments from our readers about the recent 60 Minutes segment on heroin use, which made the point that much of the heroin abuse is coming from people who were using (or abusing) pain medications. Sixty-two year old Krissy Anderson, who recently relocated to Naples, Florida from Minneapolis, went a little further than some. She outlined the story she thought 60 Minutes should do.
First of all, let me say that this segment will be complex, because treating chronic pain isn’t simple. So the show is not a follow-up, but a full 12-minute segment at the least, and likely the entire hour.
Here are the elements and angles needed:
- Talk with pain specialist MD’s, patients and pharmacists. Although finding a pharmacist who isn’t afraid to speak out for fear of DEA recrimination will be difficult.
- Poll a community of patients — they can be found right here on the National Pain Report or on Facebook — to find out what their real experiences are. Ask them about their doctors, pharmacists, friends and family and their insurance companies.
- Now that I think about it, the insurance angle is pretty important. (Last time I picked up my Fentanyl patches my co-pay had doubled! According to the pharmacist, the note on his computer from my insurance company was, “reached opioid limit.” I wasn’t denied the prescription, but the insurance company decided I should just pay twice as much for it.)
- This part is big: Take a look at the number of pill users who go on to using heroin versus the number of sick people using prescription opioids responsibly.
- Don’t worry about hospital EDs. We already know there are ED hoppers and those of us who know better than to go to the hospital in search of pain medications (unless in certain very serious situations.)
- And finally, interview people who think disabled patients in pain are taking advantage of their money and government money. The truth needs to be put in place.
Here’s what some of the findings will be:
- Patients have a tough road to navigate. Roadblocks such as pharmacies are keeping them from getting their prescribed medication all too often. Interview one of the biggest pharmacies — Walgreens or CVS, and an independent — who also have roadblocks because they are under constant scrutiny by the DEA. Because of this, pharmacists have turned on their customers and customers are being treated badly.
- Patients are scared. Many of us have lost friends and family members who don’t understand that intractable and chronic pain are more than just pain, they’re setbacks from all the things mentioned above. We isolate, we have depression and anxiety, and we feel lost at times. We don’t want this — we want to get better, and we want the facts to be told so that people will listen and have a better understanding of us.
- Chronic pain patients aren’t running amok using heroin! In fact, the large majority of us have never abused our meds, much less gone off to using illegal street drugs.
I realize this looks like a lot of work, 60 Minutes, and it is not a story that is going to be dumped into your laps. It’s a story that takes some real reporting, you know, the way 60 Minutes used to do it. Also I realize you may need some help with research. Let me volunteer, or better yet, pay me so I don’t have to struggle with whether to buy the groceries I want or skimp on this months’ meds. I would work hard, but my rheumatoid arthritis with degenerative disc disease, ME/CFS or Lupus could flare up on any day, but I’d get the work done. Eventually. I know my way around this type of challenge. Just check out my bio.
So let’s go to work. There’s an important story to tell.
Krissy Anderson is a retired marketing communications consultant with an emphasis on public relations. Prior to being forced to retire, she owned a successful company.