A Good Man Speaks Truth to Power

A Good Man Speaks Truth to Power

Editor’s Note: The following article is being published as received from Richard “Red” Lawhern. National Pain Report extends our thanks to “Red”, and the Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain (ATIP) for all of your ongoing efforts.

By Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D.

Because I write and speak widely on public health issues and the so-called “opioid crisis”, people frequently send me references to others’ work.  One of the more startling articles I’ve seen lately was published November 20, 2018 in Pharmacy Times.  It is titled “Should We Believe Patients With Pain?”

[link:  https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2018/november2018/should-we-believe-patients-with-pain ].  The unlikely author is Commander John Burke, “a 40-year veteran of law enforcement, the past president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, and the president and cofounder of the International Health Facility Diversion Association.”

The last paragraph of Commander Burke’s article is worth repeating here. 

“Let’s get back to dealing with each person claiming to be in legitimate pain and believe them until we have solid evidence that they are scamming the system. If they are, then let’s pursue them through vigorous prosecution, but let’s not punish the majority of people receiving opioids who are legitimate patients with pain.”

This seems a remarkable insight from anyone in law enforcement — especially from one who has expressed this view in both Pain News Network, and Dr Lynn Webster’s video “The Painful Truth”.   Recognizing Commander Burke’s unique perspective, I followed up by phone to ask several related questions.  He has granted permission to publish my paraphrases of his answers here.  

  1. “Are there any available source documents which establish widely accepted standards for what comprises “over-prescription?” as viewed by diversion investigators?”Burke’s answer was a resounding “NO”.  Each State and Federal Agency that investigates doctors for potentially illegal or inappropriate opioid prescribing is pretty much making up their own standards as they go.  Some make reference to the 2016 CDC Guidelines, but others do not.
  2. “Thousands of individual doctors have left pain management practice in recent years due to fears they may be investigated, sanctioned, and lose their licenses if they continue to treat patients with opioid pain relievers.. Are DEA and State authorities really pursuing the worst “bad actors”, or is something else going on?Burke’s answer:  “Regulatory policy varies greatly between jurisdictions.  But a hidden factor may be contributing significantly to the aggressiveness of Federal investigators.  Federal Agencies may grant

    financial bonuses to their in-house diversion investigators, based on the volume of fines collected from doctors, nurse practitioners, PAs and others whom they investigate.“No law enforcement agency at any level should be rewarded with monetary gain and/or promotion due to their work efforts or successes. This practice has always worried me with Federal investigators and is unheard of at the local or state levels of enforcement.”

Commander Burke’s revelation hit me like a thunder-clap.  It would explain many of the complaints I have heard from doctors who have been “investigated” or prosecuted.  It’s a well known principle that when we subsidize a behavior, we get more of it. Financial rewards to investigators must inevitably foster a “bounty hunter” mentality in some.  It seems at least plausible that such bonuses might lead DEA regulators to focus on “low hanging fruit” among doctors who may not be able to defend themselves without being ruined financially.  The practice is at the very least unethical. Arguably it can be corrupting.

I also inquired concerning a third issue:

  1. “I read complaints from doctors that they have been pursued on trumped-up grounds, coerced and denied appropriate legal defense by confiscation of their assets – which are then added to Agency funds for further actions against other doctors. Investigations are also commonly announced prominently, even before indictments are obtained – a step that seems calculated to destroy the doctor’s practice, regardless of legal outcomes.  Some reports indicate that DEA or State authorities have threatened employees with prosecution if they do not confirm improper practices by the doctor. Do you believe such practices are common?”Burke’s answer:  “I hear the same reports you do – and the irony is that such tactics are unnecessary.  Lacking an accepted standard for over-prescribing, the gross volume of a doctor’s prescriptions or the dose levels prescribed to their patients can be poor indicators of professional misbehavior.  Investigators should instead be looking into the totality of the case, which can include patient reports of poor doctor oversight, overdose-related hospital admissions, and patterns of overdose related deaths that may be linked to a “cocktail” of illicit prescribing.  Especially important can be information gleaned from confidential informants – with independent verification - prior patients, and pharmacy information.”

No formal legal prosecution should ever proceed from the testimony of only one witness — even one as well informed as Commander John Burke.  But it seems to me that it is high time for the US Senate Judiciary Committee to invite the testimony of others in open public hearings, concerning the practice of possible bounty hunting among Federal  investigators.

___ ___ ___

 Author note:  Richard A Lawhern, Ph.D. has 21 years experience as a technically trained non-physician advocate for people in pain.  His articles and columns have been published by the National Institutes for Neurological Disorder and Stroke, the Association for Humanistic Psychology,  Wikipedia,  The Crime Report, The Journal of Medicine or the US College of Physicians, Practical Pain Management, Pain News Network, National Pain Report, IPain Living, and other media.

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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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Christine Hawkins

No one cares, I did not ask for pain meds. My orthopedic doctor put me on them then from there I went to a pain management doctor and ever since I moved I’ve had no help from anybody and I’ve been treated like a dog. I have a regular general practitioner that was prescribing my medicine and the good pharmacist at Walmart decided to take it up with themselves and send a message to my Pharmacy telling them to refuse all prescriptions so now I have nothing. I have scoliosis degenerative disc disease I’ve blown the same disc three and four times I’ve had two surgeries six sets of 3 . I’m sick.of being poked at , I’m trying to find a new pain management Dr who doesn’t want me to have vitamin infusions. And once again three sets of useless steroids that don’t work all for him to put me on Suboxone tell me how inhumane that is


I have CRPS and severe nerve damage - that happened by the way, due to a product the CDC allowed on the market.

I am laying here with a cold burn in my various limbs on just enough morphine to take the edge off. Because of the asinine folks at the CDC I’m laying here holding on by a thread. I know I’m on shaky ground because some fool legislator who wants to act like he’s a hero can take away the little relief I get.

I’m so sick of hearing about the poor immigrants at the border! You have severely suffering Americans who are being treated like trash laying on couches across America treated worse than any migrant! All because these godless politicians refused to secure the border and all the cartels loaded the manufacturing trucks up after Clinton signed NAFTA and rolled into America.

All the migrants we’re told to feel sorry for all all the ones bringing the drugs into the country. The hospital refused to operate on me until I paid the co-pay. The same hospital handed out free medical care to every migrant who walked through the door.

May God help us because our government won’t.

I was wondering if the CDC can be subpoenaed to prove all the documentation & discussion said they had. And that they are fine so much money everyday that they do not bring up their documentation to the public. I feel harrassed even though it’s the law to be tested. Doctor pushing spine cord stimulator. I said no. Spinal cord stimulators are in third place for implantable devices that cause injuries, paralysis, Burns, even death. Do your research before you have one put in. I’m going to quote OAN news which did a quote by Thomas Paine, At it’s best the government is a necessary evil and it’s worse it’s intolerable.
OAN said, the government abuses its people ,citizens rise up & resist. When the United States was founded it was founded on this very belief. When the government ignores the will of the people & becomes tyrannical towards its people than those people have a duty to act. Congress has failed the American people ,our leaders no longer listen to our demands. When the people rise up, the government listens. Washington’s abuses of power can only be continued as long as we the people remain silent. Will the people stand up & be heard? Another quote by Thomas Paine, It is the duty of the Patriot to protect his country from it’s government. The only problem is they have picked on the weakest of people that cannot stand & go forward. I have made ph calls, wrote letters to no avail. I Thank you Mr. Lawherd & others that are fighting.

Rich Reifsnyder

Good Morning, I live in N.J.and the headline in the Atlantic City Press was NJ had the highest OD Death Rate ever at 3115 Deaths up 15% from 2017.The proud AG said 4.1 million Opiod Prescriptions were written in 2018,down 14%from 2017.They still don’t get it,AG is still coming up with the BS that Opiod Medication is the Bad Evil Devil when the truth is Heroin and Fentynal is the Devil killing all these people.It is simply amazing,Dr Red Lewhern gives the DEA/CDC real true data on OD Deaths that are not from Legal Prescribed Opiod Medication From our Pain Specialists and DEA/CDC just ignore this correct data from Dr.Red.These people don’t want to know the truth they want that Bonus Check from the Honey Pot while they enjoy their Evil Bounty Hunting Escapades.I pray that these Evil Devils are prosecuted for thousands of suicides of Veterans and CPP,S and our suffering from being abandoned or severely under prescribed our Legal Prescribed Opiod Medication.It will be 3 years in March since the CDC had the Biased Secret meeting with Kolondy and the other biased members to draft the Fictitious Opiod Guidelines.Dr.Red I Thank You again for your tireless work to help millions of our fellow brothers and sisters and veterans to get the proper medical care and the proper dosage of pain medication to finally have a decent quality of life which was Robbed in 2016!What scares me is I don’t think there is an honest person in the government,in my eyes they all are Evil Liars And Theives for what they have done to us,and they sleep well while millions of us suffer and pray for a Quality Of Life that was Robbed in 2016.God Bless All&Dr. Red

My husband goes same family medical facility as me. He just recently was put on medication for first time ever a blood pressure med. When i told him about the pee test he said ,they pee tested him. My spouse has only been on pain meds for surgery 3 yrs ago. So every one is now under surveillance. This b.s has gotten out of controll. Your now persumed guilty ! U have to pee in cup to prove ur not guilty of unprescriped meds or prove ur on the meds u take. How crazy its getting. My family doc doesnt prescripe my Gabapentin, my rheumatologist does, so rhematologist should be doing the testing. I am sick of it, they can keep their medication, i will just continue to deteriorate. The whole system F up.

Get ready to be harassed by your Family doc. Came in for blood work and was asked to do a urine sample because I’m on gabapentin. They said that it was new government regulations that anyone on opiates or Gabapentin or anything that’s on controlled substance database has to give a urine sample. So now we’re being harassed at the doctor’s office I am so mad about this such an invasion of my rights. Government harassing chronic pain people. This will get more people not to go to the doctor ever. Maybe this is what they want.


Thank you Mr Lawhern. We’re so grateful to you for speaking up and out for intractable pain. I’m sharing as much as I’m able. Dee

Also going to send to some of the FOX news hosts…Greg gutfeld has been helpful to,chronic pain community. Tucker Carlson does great exposes of various things, I’ve been trying to get him to delve into our situation. He likes to expose govt agencies and corruption, sure wish he’d take on our story.

How very sick and immoral is this? Absolutely disgusting. I’m going to send this article to my politicians on federal level. What a mess this whole opioid crusade is. When is the media going to do some more investigating. FOX gave a good start with their three part series in November. Someone needs to keep going.

What do you see mostly on TV or on your computer , medications to sell, or lawyers fighting for you because of medications that caused gangrene and mostly addiction clinics and a new advertisement from insurance companies Cigna about your emotional health. I just change channels when any of this stuff plays. So sick of hearing it. They turn your pain into emotional problem. If the pain was taking care of you wouldn’t have an emotional problem , it is backwards. If you notice things are becoming more socialist medicine. I am concerned about chronic pain being turned into new terms of relapsing pain. Relapsing means that it happens occasionally/ restarted. The terminology is very important. Another way to take away what we are feeling. So a doctor can say oh you’re not in constant pain it’s just relapsing pain. It doesn’t make sense. So they’re panel experts saying chronic pain means that you’re stigmatising people that have pain for everyday for 3 months which used to be the definition of chronic pain but now because it’s a stigmatization they want to change it to relapsing. Really! Truthfully what’s behind that? I don’t feel stigmatized saying it’s chronic because it is. I don’t like to talk about politics but if you notice they hire Hollywood actors that have ties to the Democratic party. I’m not steadfast one way or the other because you never know who’s telling the truth in politics you just hope that you’re voting for the right person. But it does make me wonder why aren’t there some Republicans actors up there speaking for the insurance companies about your emotional health? Pharmaceuticals and insurance companies are running America.

Norma Gonzales

I wrote something but it was not posted. I”ll make short. As a severe chronic pain patient, I have been unjustiably victimized as other chronic pain patients. It’s been biased everything about the “opiate crisis”. Anything can and will be abused by the addict. These medications have instructions on how to be used at pharmacy or the pharmacist will consult a person on how to use. them. First, by the pain management doctor too and at the hospital. The myths on opiates have been out for a long time. People are not just taking what false reports or news is saying about opiates especially chronic pain patients. For many of us are educated in the medical field as I am don’t either. I have made the best possible choices for the traumatic head and neck injury have been enduring with excuriating pain since 2003. I really appreciate the more accurate findings on the “opiate crisis. So, “Let’s get on with it” as my Indian husband said. His Apache father served in World War II. So, did my only 19 yr old son in the Navy with 3 tours to Iraq. We owe it to them too for having our freedom. This last war has been the longest which my son served for 8 full yrs with supervior service to the United States of America. I am no stranger to it either as a great-great grand child of a French Cononol. I hope we as a nation can get back to helping our chronic pain patients as myself quickly.

Barbara Snow

The US Judicial branch of the US Senate doesn’t care either. I have now written to them and everyone else. I am supposed to be a caretaker of a 87 yr. old father. I was stable and doing fine, until July when my meds. were cut. Now every day is terrible. I don’t how long I can hang tough. I’m reaching the end of my line. God someone help us.

Every human life is valuable, even if that life is lived in chronic pain. What’s it going to take for “them” to realize this? More money, more votes, more lies, more secrets… where does it end? Our president was elected to help the people of the United States of America, not just some of them but all of us. It’s about time that this information reaches him. If it already has then it’s due time he act upon it, represent the rest of us and do his job as he swore he would.
A heartfelt thank you for not just one, but two men that are courageous enough to speak the truth.


I have been going to the same pain doc for 10 yrs now and he still doesn’t know my name. When my 27 yr old son was killed he overheard me telling his office manager about it, he asked, “was it drugs?”, I told him it was, he said “well you gotta go sometime”, and EVERY single time I had an appointment, even years before the so called epidemic, he threatened to take me off of the life saving opiates I was prescribed, so naturally a few days before my appointment my anxiety level was through the roof, so stressful. Well I thought long and hard about it and decided to go see a different doc, not looking to have my meds raised but just to get away from this idiot. I’ve never failed one urine test or even ran out of meds early. So three months ago he reduced my meds from 195 mg of oxycodone daily to 75 mg daily, no taper, just cut. Of course I went through withdrawals and it sucked and now I can only do limited activities. I hope this new doc has some compassion as well as some some suggestions to reduce my pain. I mention these facts to demonstrate there ARE certain doctors who shouldn’t be practicing medicine and maybe the DEA SHOULD be checking out guys like him. I would like to complain about him to someone but I don’t know who. I guess the best thing I can do for myself is switch docs. Most pain docs are just anystisiologists who don’t know the first thing about pain meds. The entire system is a joke and everything I know about it along with articles like this one just reinforce that. We have no chance of a normal life, we are just everyone’s giant, opioid experiment, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. God bless all of my chronic pain brothers and sisters. Hang tough, exercise, strengthen your core, get up and move, keep busy. I know, easier said than done.


Dr. Lawhern…Thank you so much!

I just don’t know what to say…….Yes we told them from the git go what was going to happen. Money is sooooo evil!
May they rot in hell for doing this to me, and all patients who are suffering in pain. I don’t know why, when I cry, there are still tears coming out. Surely from crying for the last 4 years I should be dried up!

Please look on web title (experiments done on prisoners) be sure to read all titles on web like experiments done on civilians. Testing with psychedelics, alcohol, methamphetamines, cannabis , morphine . Psychiatrists doing mental experiments. Says still going on today. Alot good material to open our eyes. Things that make u go hum ? Large mass experiment on chronic pain people. it sounds like what their doing now. Be sure to go into reading details.

Bob Schubring

A previous article retired Air Force officer and distinguished computer scientist Richard Lawhern, PhD, taken together with this article, reveals a truly disturbing pattern of misfeasance of duty. Last year Dr Lawhern performed a computerized analysis of data known to the CDC, using computer science methods regularly used at CDC, and conclusively showed no connection between opioid prescription rates and overdose death rates. CDC promised for three years to hand over all documents showing how the Opioid Prescribing Guidelines were developed, but have failed to do so. Taken together, the two articles show a damning pattern of misfeasance of duty, because no one has confirmed that the CDC Guidelines have any factual basis. As such, they are not probable cause for enforcement actions, but are being misused for that purpose.

Is it possible that outside lobbyists made up the Guidelines, and CDC scientists had no role in writing them?

That was what a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Washington Legal Foundation sought to learn 3 years ago. CDC officials swiftly wrote letters promising to turn over records of unlawful secret meetings between lobbyists and CDC officials at which the Guidelines were adopted, and the letters persuaded Washington Legal Foundation not to sue. But 3 years later the promised documents have not been released.

The honorable thing for CDC to do, is withdraw the Guidelines and request the National Institute of Drug Abuse, who are the federal agency actually in charge of addiction research, to study the issue and report on it.

Will that happen?

Constitutional challenges of the Affordable Care Act and the new proposed Medicare For All plan, may well hinge on whether agencies like CDC can learn how to obey laws that protect human rights. Agencies that allow corporate lobbyists to write Agency policies, give powerful reasons not to grant them power over healthcare rationing.

This sounds much like the “ Asset Seizure “ many L E agencies have in place when - arresting Marijuana suspects got growing & even using. No GUILTY verdict is necessary & most people don’t have the money to spend on Attorneys to Reclaim their assets.

In some cases L E team members destroyed homes - seized underwear and took Sex toys from the homes of those they raided.

Acting on a SINGLE complaint was all that was needed for a Swat Team to ruin the lives of a family.

Now the same is happening with Dr’s over just a single prescription of Opioids. Those Dr’s could easily loose their License to practice medicine.

Catching the Bad Guy is one thing - Calling a person Bad is not the same thing. Yes the CDC Opiate Guidelines have been Weaponized by the Anti Opioid Zealousness of a few. So far, no good has been documented since those guidelines came out.

I believe we all told the CDC - The guidelines will only make the situation worse and cause more to suffer.

Now we will watch to see what happens next and who benefits from the overreach of Government!

Thanks for a informative article.

John S

alice minch

The author really hits the ball out of the park on this one ! An Experienced investigator calling out the Boards operations and their ‘investigators ” . Until someone is wrongly accused or a prey of predatory boards, they will never get the full impact of how corrupt the boards can be . Mirroring them to anti social personality disordered, without conscience , do what ever to anyone to get someone nailed. A sickness , summed up “if you look bad I look good” . (sic) About as low life as a psych who becomes the star of Patricia Hagen’s book “Whores of the Court “

Maureen M.

Thank you Ed.
Red, once again your work has given us immense insight! Thank you!
This report is one that I have imagined to be true, myself. And now I know that my intuition was correct. It’s all such a mess. Shame on them!
With care and extreme gratefulness for all that you do on our behalf as well as your own family. Maureen M.

Lynda Hillebrenner

Revealing this atrocity helps us understand why doctors are afraid of these agencies. But now what? We have to get busy and contact members of the US Judiciary Committee to investigate these illegal, unethical and downright horrendous practices. The CDC has said some patients need to be on high levels of opioids to function. This is so outrageous, I am dumbfounded that something hasn’t been done to stop this. How do we identify the members of this committee?

Katie Olmstead

Wow. This does explain some of this bounty-hunter type mentality. This should really be widely read. Not sure how to do that or whom to reach out to. What a nightmare.


I don’t even know what to say. It kind of explains itself. All I can ask is where are we if they can get away that? Welcome to America.

Deborah M Babcock

Here it is….It boils down to money,making a very low percentage of these evil peoples wallets very fat !! The root of all evil !! At the expense of good people whom are law abiding citizenz !! Pain is real whether you can see it or not !! I cry myself to sleep every night due to widespread untreated pain !! They are filling peoples heads with lies !! Doctors oath does not matter any longer ?? Morals are all lost ?? Keeping pain medication from human beings is downright TORTURE !!! Were all being lumped and labled ! This is insane !! The law says that doctors must provide pain relief to the people !! Were being treated worse than animals and im an animal lover however a dog in pain receives pain medication !!! A human in pain gets called a drug seeker !! A drug addict can get their dope!! For free to them as well !! What has happened to compassion and caring !!?? Im afraid to even mention the word pain to my dr..not even a dr,,nurse practitioner ! What does that spell for our health ?! There is no trust between patient and dr anymore !! Something needs to happen soon..!!

Nancy Wilson

I knew it had to be something. I worked in the State’s Attorney’s Offices for twenty years. I watched local police officers break the very law they swore to protect. They had no fear of violating people’s rights. There has to be accountability outside of these departments.

Charles Bruscino

We’re all very grateful for Red’s tenacious work regarding the opioid “epidemic”. We’re all blessed to have hi and all others professionals who have spoken up about the inequities wrought by the CDC Guideline. Millions of chronic pain patients and their families and friends will benefit when the world acknowledges Dr. Lawhern’s work. How can we show our appreciation?


Praise God, and thank You, Jesus, for always giving us a way out when our way seems to be too much for us. And thank you, Mr. Lawhern for your dedication and for speaking out for those of us who need it most!

BJ Thomas

Thank you from chronic pain patient ..GREAT ARTICLE ..
It just confirms what we have known all along since this genocide hit this country , IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY .The US I used to be so proud of and to live here and now I’m sickened by the oh mittey $ 3rd world crap. HUMANS SUFFERING INHUMANELY IN THE US? My god what’s wrong with the powers that be , THAT THEY DO NOT JUST END THIS GOD FORSAKEN MESS & how did we as a country, get here. Why was it ever allowed to happen.
I heard and that means I have not confirmed but that patients with cancer, suffering endlessly are being offered low dose vicadin and if they complain they are being told they can have the “Right to die pill” so live with what you get or choose to end life. I PRAY TO GOD THIS isn’t true BUT HONESTLY WITH ALL THAT’S HAPPENED IT WOULD NOT SUPRISE ME AT ALL. This country is in serious trouble TRUMP listen to the people. You can’t deny hearing our cries for help.

Cary Cassell


Rich Reifsnyder

Good Morning, Money,Money,Money!I received this post two days ago from ATIP in a email,it almost made me vomit and got an instant stress headache without exaggeration.All that post on this site been saying its about the Money since the 2016 Opiod Guidelines were born from Kolondy and the Biased Secret Panel.No wonder the DEA diversion investigators are so aggressive,lock up more Pain Specialists and the bigger bonus check you receive from the Honey Pot.How Convenient!!With all the Pain Specialists locked up the Honey Pot must have Billions of dollars accumulated.If this Bounty Hunter theory is correct,which I myself do,Thousands of Veterans and CPP,S committed suicide and 50-100 million of Disabled Veterans and Intractable Chronic Pain Patients are suffering severely from being abandoned or severely under prescribed Opiod Medication.I promised my father on his deathbed I would take care of my mother.Well now Iam 61 and severely under prescribed my pain medications for severe nerve damage from 3 failed back surgeries.These Devils ruined my quality of life and it is almost impossible to care for 86 year old Mother.All this suffering,families destroyed,jobs lost,homes lost,for money.Writing this I still have a wicked headache that for the Almighty Dollar Bill these Devils could ruin my life and millions of our brothers and sisters lives.This Government makes North Korea,China and Russia look like angels.They are intensionaly neglecting our medical care in severely under prescribing our pain medication.God Bless All

Debbie Nickels Heck, MD

If it is true there are financial incentives to investigate Drs in a “witch hunt” fashion and use minute & questionable “offenses” as “evidence” against them, any person having done so should be charged with unlawfully harassing innocent physicians, pay stiff penalties and be required to pay restitution to any physician who sustained damages by such unlawful means.

Mr. Lawhern, Thank you for investigating and asking questions that need to be asked and also for standing up for a chronic pain people everywhere. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. There’s a lot of Honor in what you do standing up for the people that are unable to stand up for themselves. You may be saving thousands of lives. May God bless you and keep you strong.