DEA Crackdown on Florida Pain Clinics

The DEA raided Florida pain clinics today, arresting 22 people, including 5 doctors. The raids, part of "Operation Pill Nation," took place in Miami, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The charges include drug and money laundering violations.

A few weeks ago Florida Governor Rick Scott halted the state's planned prescription monitoring database program, calling it a waste of financial resources and privacy invasive. 38 states have the program. [More...]

The DEA says the clinics are "pill mills." You can read one Indictment here, although it names no doctors, just the owners and employees of some of the pain clinics. An arrest warrant for one of the doctors arrested today alleged;

Jeffrey Lipman, a Miami osteopath and president of Midtown Pain Management at 3800 N. Miami Ave. Lipman is charged with six counts of drug trafficking for selling pills to undercover agents posing as patients without legitimate medical problems, according to an arrest affidavit. In one instance, an agent received pills from Lipman after complaining of a lower back problem – though he brought the doctor an MRI image showing a neck injury, not a back injury, the report says.

I hope this doesn't discourage doctors and dentists from prescribing the pills to those who need the prescription drugs for pain relief. The DEA should not get between patients and doctors.

See also, Alas A Blog. From DrugWar Facts, some facts on Pain Management, Who is Obstructing Justice in Kansas? and War on Doctors/Pain Crisis.

Earlier TalkLeft posts on the topic: The War on Pain Management; the War against Pain Medicine; DEA Crackdown on Pain Meds Hurting Those in Nursing Homes and Hospices.

The now-defunct Pain Relief Network, railroaded out of existence by the DEA and DOJ, in its closing post, says:

People in pain are still being abused, neglected, and left to die by the entire system. Physicians brave enough to treat chronic pain continue to be intimidated and prosecuted. It breaks my heart that we have to stop, but there is simply no way forward for PRN.

You can watch a video from the Pain Relief Network here.

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    I Am Very Good Friends... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 09:19:05 AM EST
    ... with a woman who has major back pain and sees a pain doctor at pain clinic.

    The state of Texas mandates random drug testing to ensure the patients actually have Oxy in their systems.

    This blows my mind, drug testing to ensure you are actually on the drugs they prescribe.  She could never find out if they were testing for other drugs, mainly mary j, and if they would toss you out if you came up positive.  So they have basically scarred her from seeking alternative self medications, which may be a genuine alternative for some of the patients.

    If they aren't testing for other drugs, seems like a pretty reasonable way to filter out the people using the clinic to sell pills for resale.  Not that I agree, but it's reasonable.

    With these sorts of busts, I wonder how many people truly in need of pain relief are denied so that they can get the few who are gaming the system.  Seems like an awfully high cost to get a few pills off the street.

    Not to mention... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 09:39:34 AM EST
    it is a system that need not exist to be gamed.

    Permission slips are for kids...not for adults to seek and gain pain relief, or (gasp!) a buzz.  Time to grow up America and stop being a buncha babies.


    Good to Fail A Drug Test For Once (none / 0) (#5)
    by WillieB on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 12:41:34 PM EST
    I suffer from severe RA (2 hip replacements, 2 knee replacements and one shoulder replacement so far)and have been seeing a pain doc for the last ten years.

    I too, have to fail a drug test every 18 months or so.

    However my doctor gives me a copy of the receipt (order) for the drug testing lab. On the receipt there are checkmarks for what drugs they are testing for.

    Maybe you friend could ask for a copy of hers to ease her mind.  


    My mother passed away last September (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Romberry on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 08:10:59 PM EST
    My mom was a survivor of childhood polio which ravaged her body and left her in pain all her life. Add degenerative arthritis in her spine and crumbling hip sockets and the fact is that she was in immense pain. Still, she never complained about pain that she had learned to live with...until the last months of her life when just moving her in her bed caused her to cry out.

    We begged and pleaded and cajoled her doctor to give her something for her pain. And every step of the way, we were met with resistance. He would prescribe useless crap like Tylenol 3, and add some ativan for the anxiety he said her pain was causing her. And still she cried out. Finally, in desperation, I and both of my sisters went to the office where her doctor along with several others had their practice and essentially made a scene. My mom's doctor made it clear that the reason he refused (and still refused) to prescribe something strong enough to alleviate my mothers terrible pain at the end of her life was because he feared being hassled by the DEA.

    In the end, another doctor in the practice who had treated my mom when her primary physician was not available stepped in and prescribed a low dose of fentanyl administered via pain patch. A day or two later, it was apparent that the dose was inadequate, so he doubled it. And a few days after that, he bumped it up by half so that my mom was getting triple what he initially prescribed. And for the first time in months, she was able to sleep. And we were able to move her without her crying out.

    I talked with him about why he started her on such a low dose. He admitted that he knew a higher dose was likely needed than what he initially prescribed. But he too feared the DEA, and so he started on a dose that he knew likely to be inadequate and stepped up from there, basically leaving my mom in pain longer than she had to be, all in an effort to stay out of trouble with the law.

    I'm sure there are pill mills out there. But I am also sure that because of repeated prosecutions of doctors who are just trying to look after their patients in pain, there are many people who remain in pain too awful to bear for much longer than need be, and perhaps even to the end. I know because my mom was one of those people.

    Screw the DEA.

    If you want to legalize, then say so... (2.00 / 1) (#1)
    by diogenes on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 07:39:35 AM EST
    "The DEA says the clinics are "pill mills." You can read one Indictment here, although it names no doctors, just the owners and employees of some of the pain clinics. An arrest warrant for one of the doctors arrested today alleged..."

    No doubt these were pill mills.  If you want to stop arrests of prescibers/possessors of oxycontin, then push for that.

    Pill Mills ? (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 09:47:00 AM EST
    "No doubt these were pill mills."

    No doubt you don't know, as mentioned below how many people genuinely seeking pain relief are now out in the cold because of this type of thought.

    'Well the DEA said...', their press release isn't exactly evidence, and they have been know to fabricate or inflate their assumptions to justify their existence/expense or stoke their egos, or whatever reason they routinely say something that they can't prove.

    Basically the DEA making a claim that their knowledge of pain is greater than a doctor's.  Pain doctors, like most doctors, rely on the word of the patient more than any test, especially when you are in the relm of pain.  Who's to say the doctor shouldn't accept a patients word that they are in pain.  

    This kind of non-sense only hurts the people who are in pain and because of the fear of the law, go untreated.  Are we to say to a doctor, you need to assume patients are lying when certain meds are involved, and if there is no physical proof to back the claim, no meds., or risk your livelihood.

    It's ridiculous, the government has no business in between patients and doctors, period.  Let them find drugs elsewhere.


    An indictment is not proof. (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Romberry on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 08:12:25 PM EST
    Your comment has really p*ssed me off. See my comment further down for why.

    What's the old saying? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Harry Saxon on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 08:26:12 AM EST
    "A good district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich."

    I kind of see both sides of this (none / 0) (#6)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 03:50:43 PM EST
    As a criminal defense lawyer and civil liberties advocate, and just decent human being, I don't want to see people in pain unable to get treatment.  On the other hand my wife is a doctor and I know that she has many patients who she treats successfully for pain.  She has also had patients who were trying to get meds either to feed an addiction or to sell.  Some number of the addicts were made addicts by doctors who did not know how to properly treat pain and simply wrote a bunch of scripts.  As to the later, they are simply stealing from whoever is paying for the meds, which is often medicaid.  

    I know she does do "narcotics contracts" with patients were there is concern of abuse and I think that in some cases that includes testing to make sure they are using the drugs, but I think that is only done, at least where she is, when there is some reason to suspect a problem.