Pain Meds Plot on ‘Royal Pains’

Pain Meds Plot on ‘Royal Pains’

We don’t normally talk about TV shows at the National Pain Report, but a new plot twist on the USA Network’s Royal Pains caught our eye — because it dealt with chronic pain and the prescribing of pain medication.

royal-painsRoyal Pains is a dramatic show about concierge doctors in the Hamptons, starring Mark Feurstein as Dr. Hank Lawson.

It’s the Dr. Lawson character who appears to become addicted to pain medication, as he is suffering from persistent post-surgical pain.

The National Pain Report’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Dan Bennett thinks it’s a good thing Hollywood is addressing the issue.

“It is always good to see Hollywood tackle the pain medication issue in its programming,” said Dr. Bennett. “While viewers understand that Royal Pains is merely a fictional story, a good script can get people thinking and talking about complex issues, in this case, pain.”

Bennett, who is an interventional spine and pain management physician in Denver, Colorado, thinks the story premise makes a lot of sense, too. He believes that post-surgical pain can be  difficult for physicians and patients to manage.

Bennett stresses this is where good communication between a surgeon and patient comes in.

Questions a patient should think about include:

  • What type of pain do most patients complain of following surgery? This allows you to begin preparing for the post-surgical pain in an informed way.
  • Is there something that I can do prior to surgery to decrease the pain I will have following surgery?
  • Should my pain medicine physician be involved with my post-surgical pain care?

In the Royal Pains program, Dr. Lawson’s colleague, Dr. Jeremiah Sacani (played by Ben Shenkman), is reluctant to increase the amount of pain medication that he is prescribing for Dr. Lawson, who is struggling with rationing his medication.

We don’t know where the plot line will take us, but it should be interesting.

In real life, Dr. Bennett sees danger in a friend of a doctor prescribing for his colleague.

“As a general rule a physician should not become involved in the pain management of anyone when they are too close to the situation,” Bennett emphasized.

“This allows a physician to be as objective as possible when making decisions to treat pain that might compromise the overall well being of the individual suffering or about to suffer from the pain.  When in doubt, call in an outside physician who is expert in the treatment of pain to be involved.”

Despite some holes in the script, Dr. Bennett likes the story line. He has been treating chronic pain patients for 30 years and has been a leader in trying to improve the treatment of chronic pain.

“Physicians learned decades ago, in the care of trauma patients, that not treating pain can actually make the situation worse, in some cases even hastening death,” Bennett said.

“Under-treatment of pain following surgery can have very bad consequences.  When the human body is subjected to untreated pain, it thinks it is under attack.  Not adequately treating pain causes the body to produce ‘stress hormones’, activating a brain-body response that actually prevents healing.”

We’ll have to wait and see how Dr. Lawson fares. Royal Pains airs Wednesday night on USA Network.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Thanks Ed for this article!

The best epioside on “House” was Season 8, Episode 21 called “Holding On”. Dr. House used a walking cane the entire time the series was on due to a serious leg injury.

Dr. House is being chased down the hall by one of his colleagues and is telling him that his best friend is in pain. House turns around and starts yelling at him in the hallway


Best use of words I have ever heard. They describe how so many of us feel! I would love to shout this out every time some of my relatives have judged me in the past. I hate my relatives for what they have said to me.


I just really hope that they handle this story line in the right way. There have been other docs on drugs storylines that did more harm than good. Nurse jackie was a “hot mess”, then there was dr.carter from er that went out of control after he was attacked, and let us not forget house. I really liked that show and I think they did an ok job; but it was still pretty negative and stereotyped. I wish that they would show a storyline w/ a more positive outcome as not everyone spirals out of control that are on longterm opiates. It would be nice to show what is is really like for a chronic pain patient who has tried everything without success and are left with the last resort of going on pain pills. Like how awful we are treated by doctors that prejudge you before even meeting you or ‘hostage docs” that will only refill your pain meds if you agree to let them keep doing all these painful proceedures on you even though they do NOTHING and in my case, caused more damage and pain! Also how they are treated at the pharmacy when trying to get their legal & legitimate rx’s filled, only to be lied to and humiliated and left to run all over the state to find someone willing to fill it and without price gouging and/or demanding cash only. Then they can also show how we are treated like junkies by everyone including some friends and even family because they believe all the false hype they see on the news about the “hillbilly heroin” that EVERYONE is abusing and how our innocent “children” are overdosing! Show how it takes everything we have, to get from 1 day to the next without jumping off a building and lets not forget to show how horrific and dangerous it is to go into withdrawl when we cannot get our meds filled and are cut off cold from high dose meds that we have taken for years and that their is NOWHERE to turn as there are no programs or services set up to help us except for a methadone clinic which you are not able to go to everyday due to your pain & condition. Welcome to my life and stand in my shoes! or should I say sit in my pants as I am not able to stand much and my feet hurt so bad and swell so big, that I cannot handle shoes!!!!