A pharmacist in Celina, Tenn., was one of 60 people indicate on charges of opioid related crimes last week, in a multistate sting. John Polston was charged with 21 counts of filling medically unnecessary narcotic prescriptions. He was also Gail Gray’s pharmacist and the person she relied on to regularly fill her opioid prescriptions. They take pain medicine first thing in the morning. I’m usually up most of the night with pain. they hurt all the time.
Living in a mountainous community on the Tennessee-Kentucky line, Gray has coped with a degenerative disk disease for more than 15 years, requiring multiple back surgeries. She says the chronic pain is totally debilitating without powerful opioids. But with her druggist shut down, her high-dose prescriptions have been questioned by the other pharmacy in town. They wouldn’t take me because I was red-flagged on my dose,” she said.
Other medical professionals
The dozens of indictments across Appalachia left thousands of patients who are dependent on opioids to function on a daily basis scrambling, from Ohio to Alabama. Over 50 of those indicte were doctors, nurses or other medical professionals. So as agents were in the field making arrests, the Justice Department also coordinate with local agencies to deploy health workers to look for desperate patients.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said the enforcement was coordinate with health agencies and addiction treatment providers. That plan is design to ensure that affect patients have continue access to care and are, at the same time, direct to legitimate medical professionals in the area,” he said at a press conference in Cincinnati last week.
Amid an ongoing crackdown on overprescribing doctors in Appalachia announce in October, patient advocates have been increasingly concern for pain patients and those abusing prescription drugs. Being suddenly cut off from medications they depend on can be dangerous. Patients could become so desperate from withdrawal symptoms that they may resort to street drugs and could overdose.
Closure of pain clinics
This is the first time that they have had this type of heads up, said Marie Williams; who oversees Tennessee’s substance abuse agency. With previous stings that result in the closure of pain clinics, Williams said, her staffers have gotten, perhaps, one day to prepare. This time, it was nearly a month. Overdose prevention specialists have deploy to train families; so on how to use reversal drugs like Narcan. They’ve also taping up flyers on shutter clinic doors.
Suzanne Angel is a state fund outreach nurse in the area who is helping contact patients in the wake of the crackdown. She has been warning local hospital and emergency responders to be on alert for patients who may act out of desperation to find addictive narcotics or who may even be suicidal. They don’t want them to feel alone. Angel said there are now more alternatives to opioids, and it’s possible patients could find another pain clinic.
Because of the current legal focus on opioids, it can much harder to obtain higher-dosage pills. And among the thousands of patients getting their medication through questionable providers, many have legitimate needs. They’ve tried therapies. I’ve tried injections. They’ve tried several different things,” said patient Gail Gray. They didn’t just start off taking opiates. Gray found a new pharmacy, though it means driving to the next county. She expects it won’t be long before she’s seeking help again.