The Government’s War on Pain Doctors Revisited

The Government’s War on Pain Doctors Revisited

Editor’s Note: Linda Cheek  is a family practice and alternative medicine physician in southwest Virginia. In February, Cheek wrote a column for American News Report discussing her efforts to treat pain patients, which were labeled a “deceitful practice” by state regulators. 

This week Cheek pleaded not guilty to a 173-count federal indictment accusing her of distributing oxycodone and other painkillers without a valid certificate from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Her license to practice medicine is currently suspended and she is free on bond.

As a doctor accused by the Justice Department of drug trafficking, I am unable to work, my reputation has been destroyed and I have found life difficult over the past year.

But when I find out what life is like for pain patients affected by the war on drugs, I find the strength to continue. I would like to share one patient’s story.

Bob went straight out of high school into the Air Force. He spent several years overseas based inJapan, got married and had three children. After leaving the service, Bob was asked to return to the Air Force as a flight control specialist. While working on an airplane cable, he fell fifteen feet off an airplane and fractured his back, making his injury one hundred percent service connected.

In the beginning, Bob was placed on a low strength pain medicine. But after 25 years his tolerance to medication built up and he was eventually taking 960 milligrams of OxyContin per day. He periodically tried to decrease the amount of medicine himself, but the pain always came back.

Bob started using the VA system for pain management.  The VA switched his medication to methadone, which he remained on for years.  Then in 2009 a new VA doctor evaluated Bob one time and cut him off from methadone cold turkey. VA policy now is not to treat pain with opiates because they fear addiction.

Bob came to my practice shaking in withdrawal and in excruciating pain – scoring 9 out of 10 on the pain scale. We restarted him on methadone. In his words, “I got my life back.”

Bob started classes and got an associate degree in Accounting and Business Management.  He then completed a BA in Criminal Justice, and is currently working on his Masters in Education with the intent to teach.

The Cost of Pain Treatment

It has been a year since Bob lost me as his physician.  He tried to get back into the VA system, but they wouldn’t see him.  He went to a VA hospital in another state where they put him on suboxone, which did nothing for his pain. Bob finally ended up at a local pain clinic that costs him $200 per month, which takes a big chunk out of his monthly income of $1,000.  This is in comparison to the $35 per month it cost Bob to see us.

Because of the cost of his pain management, Bob lost his home and lives in a one room efficiency apartment.  He gave up his car because he couldn’t afford gas or insurance. He can only afford Ramen noodles for two meals per day and nothing else for ten days because he is out of money.   He goes to a food pantry for outdated food.  Bob’s five grandchildren can’t stay with him in his small apartment and because of the neighborhood he now lives in.

Bob says: “Even though the number of doctors that the Justice Department targets may be small, they have targeted the doctors that take care of the poor and needy.  That has forced people to live in poverty. The action of the Justice Department seems to be an intentional target of poor people.  This has destroyed people’s quality of life.”

Bob is just one of many patients affected by the government’s attack on me.

On May 25, 2012, I was indicted on 173 counts of drug trafficking, based on calling in legitimate prescriptions by a legitimate physician for legitimate patients with legitimate pain.  I have pleaded not guilty and my trial is scheduled to begin November 5, 2012.

One of the stipulations at the pre-trial hearing was that I not practice medicine until the trial.  For the last year my license was suspended because of these malicious charges. Now I have to wait another 6 months with no income. My home and office building have been put on protective order by the government so they can be confiscated if I am found guilty. By using the drug trafficking charges, they can treat legitimate physicians like they are Columbian drug lords.

Having been attacked twice now without cause for pain management, my goal in the future is to practice only alternative medicine and prolotherapy — and teach people how to heal from disease through seminars.

People must take responsibility for their health and learn healing themselves so they are not put in the position of having untreated pain or find the cost of treatment destroying their lives.

The views, opinions and positions expressed in this column are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of American News Report, Microcast Media Group or any of its employees, directors, owners, contractors or affiliate organizations. American News Report makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information in this column, and is not responsible or liable for any errors, omissions, or delays (intentional or not) in this information; or any losses, injuries, and or damages arising from its display, publication, dissemination, interpretation or use.

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There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Unhinged at 3:58 pm

    Dr. Cheek,

    I am SOOOOO impressed with your knowledge of Ehlers-danlos Syndrome, and also your expertise regarding Prolotherapy. I know some EDSers who have had great success with Prolotherapy, but unfortunately, I am not a candidate for it due to autoimmune issues (in addition to EDS).

    For those who don’t know this…. Ehlers-danlos syndrome is a rare connective rise disorder, that is almost ALWAYS misdiagnosed as something else. When it IS diagnosed (in my case, by a wonderful geneticist), most doctors know NOTHING about it, or how to treat it. So….this “drug dealing” doctor here, must be pretty SMART! Prolotherapy (that I read she has expertise in), is one of the most “cutting edge” specialties for treatment of various muscluoskelatal problems that cause pain….including the joint Hypermobility that is usually seen in Ehlers-danlos Syndrome. There are not many physicians who have been trained how to do Prolotherapy, despite it’s continued success.

    So, we really have lost a good one, here. She has compassion (quite rare for a pain doctor these days), treats the poor and other marginalized populations, sees chronic pain patients as human beings that deserve treatment and respect, AND knows about Ehlers-danlos Syndrome & Proptherapy! NOT the resume of your typical criminal, I must say!

    Dr. Cheek….I will be following your story closely, and I want you to know how terribly sorry I am that you have been illegally targeted. Here’s a resounding, “Thank You”, from the community of sufferers that you have helped. You deserve much better, and so do we….

    Unhinged

  2. pain advocate at 3:43 am

    We still support you Linda. The injustices done to you are are horrible. I’m very proud to see that you are fighting back. Keep helping those in pain because they surely do need the support of doctors. Pain in America is 100 million. The war against legitimate patients needs to stop! Baby boomers are aging and many will find relief with many pain treatments, they need you. As for any doctors claiming that long term on pain medicines isn’t effective is ludicris. They must be getting paid to say that because the tons of pain patients I have spoke with have been a better life. They say they never want to go back to the painful life they once had to live! Keep fighting back and never give up!

  3. Duane R. Olson at 7:45 am

    Doctor; I realize it’s not nice to disagree with a doctor, but I disagree with your statement that public officials “are above the law”. They are OUR servants and they are above the law only because “WE” permit them to be! There is something radically WRONG with a society of people that pay their servants more than their masters are able to earn, furnish their servants with paid vacations and transportation features that their masters cannot afford, and hospital and surgical insure that their masters cannot afford, and then retire them after two years of service with full pay! “WE, the sheeple” have the best government money can buy and the sheeple deserve no better! “WE” have become a nation of whiners instead of a nation of doers!

  4. Linda Cheek, MD at 3:30 pm

    Duane,
    If you will contact me through email, I would be happy to talk with you. Of course I am interested in informing the nation that what the government is doing is illegal. But they are above the law. I think that is something that needs to be changed. They should answer for what they do to ruin innocent people’s lives.

    To Unhinged,
    Please look into prolotherapy. EDS can be helped with it. It tightens up the ligaments, stablizing the joints. Many people with EDS have been able to live painfree (or less pain) lives because of it. Thank you for your support and your remarks. Please follow my case on my website, http://www.lindacheekmd.come or my blog, http://www.alternativetopain.wordpress.com and pass the word to your friends.

  5. Duane R. Olson at 8:30 am

    MY GOD! Will ‘they’ ever stop? My heart goes out to M/S Cheek! If she will have her attorney contact me, I may be able to help her. My Theory of Constitution Law and Strategy of Argument supported SOLELY by the statutes within the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, prove to any reasonable thinking person or guru of Constitution Law; THAT THERE IS NO CONGRESSIONAL enacted federal criminal statute signed into Public Law by the president of the United States that would PROHIBIT, FORBID, or make it UNLAWFUL, for any person at random to buy, sell, use, or abuse, melons, marijuana, cabbage, cocaine, hot dogs, heroin, or controlled substances, whatever they are now or ever will be….and what’s more…..I am able to prove it! NO! I’m not an attorney and my advice is free! If I never hear from anybody regarding this e-mail, it won’t surprise me, one little bit!

  6. Unhinged at 6:45 am

    Dr. Cheek,

    I am so sorry for what you and your patients have been put through by the misdirected “war on drugs”. It has, indeed, become a war on pain patients and the doctors who treat them. What a disgrace, that in this country, to become severely injured can be a sentence to life in HELL….especially when we have the medications to treat serious, unrelenting pain. As a patient who suffers from a rare connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-danlos syndrome, I have seen more and more patients denied access to opioid therapy. For some of us, along with non-medicinal adjuncts, long term opioid therapy has been the ONLY way to function through the serious bouts of acute and chronic pain we face. Chronic pain patients have become “throw away” patients that very few doctors will treat now. Doctors fear that what happened to YOU, could very well happen to them. The media “hysteria” over the use of opioids to treat non-cancerous chronic pain has gone TOO far. It is leaving MILLIONS of legitimate sufferers in agonizing, daily pain, that could be well controlled by the legitimate, responsible use of opioids. For all the people in society who are committing serious, violent crimes…….and the fact that our government is focusing on YOU, is a joke. Thank you for trying to help patients like me live more productive, lives through decreased pain. I’m so sorry you had to pay such a high price for your compassion and empathy for us.