New DEA Painkiller Rules Have Unintended Consequences

MARCH 9, 2016

New DEA Painkiller Rules

A new set of federal rules on prescription narcotic painkillers has hit veterans hard. The new restrictions are also putting increased pressure on an already over-burdened Veterans Administration health care system. The net effect- veterans are not getting the care they need and VA doctors will take the blame.

Physicians feeling pressure from two sides after DEA ruling.

Rules created by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for prescription narcotics are making matters worse, instead of better, for some of the people who need these painkillers.

The complete DEA rule is here.

When the federal agency announced the new rules, then-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said, "These new regulations will expand the public's options to safely and responsibly dispose of unused or unwanted medications. The new rules will allow for around-the-clock, simple solutions to this ongoing problem. Now everyone can easily play a part in reducing the availability of these potentially dangerous drugs."

The DEA's intent was to slow the rate of prescription painkiller overdose and death in the United States, a nation that some sources report as the world leader in opioid prescription medication abuse. While well intentioned, the new DEA rules have the unintended effect of restricting prescription pain medications for those who suffer from chronic, debilitating pain and depend on narcotics to get through everyday life.

Veterans among those hit hard by new DEA rules

The Washington Post profiled a number of veterans who are being hit especially hard by the DEA rule in a story about the DEA rule. One of those veterans, Craig Schroeder, was seriously injured in Iraq. Since coming home, he relies on opioids to alleviate debilitating pain that would otherwise make it impossible for him to function day-to-day.

But, after the DEA ruling, he could not get his medications because the DEA rules require regular doctor appointments for refills. Delays and other problems at the VA meant it took Schroeder five months to get in to see a physician.

Wounded veterans are just one group of individuals adversely affected by unintended consequences following new DEA rules. Doctors may also face difficulties when attempting to provide medication to patients suffering with chronic pain, as new, shifting DEA requirements may cause prescribers to unintentionally violate DEA rules.

Vigilance is all the more important for medical professionals who base their livelihoods on their ability to prescribe medications. To ensure you comply with DEA regulations and other state and federal rules, or if you are looking for advice on how to comply with the law and your duty as a physician, contact a Healthcare Law Attorney Atlanta at Frances Cullen, P.C. for help.