Actually, this looks like a good move to me….
There are some complicated issues around doctor-shopping and script-kiting, which are the other major sources of diverted pills. The trick is to make life harder for the scammers without making it harder for the legitimate patients.
But it’s good to see the drug czar’s office focusing, for once, on a real problem where there might be some real solutions.
I have to disagree with Mark on this one. I’m not at all heartened by the shift (or additional emphasis) toward prescription drug abuse.
- First of all, any possible thought that enforcement will be focused on stolen or diverted drugs is delusional. What will happen is that enforcement will go after doctors who have a different idea of pain management than the DEA has — it’s much easier to go after people who are listed in the phone book (just consider the major “investigations” of medical marijuana coops in California, and bong manufacturers) than actual criminals.
- I am very uncomfortable with federal enforcement determining what proper pain management is for patients. A crackdown in this area is going to increase the pressure on doctors to be more conservative with pain medication — at the expense of patients’ health and lives. The proper regulation of pain prescriptions is through medical licensing organizations, not federal law enforcement.
- Even the efforts against diversion of prescription drugs are problematic. Just like all other prohibition efforts, if the feds are at all successful at arresting those who are making drugs available on the black market, then the prices will rise and increase the attractiveness for organized criminals to get involved in prescription drugs.
If the feds want to be useful in this area, the best thing they can do is educate people as to the dangers of using prescription drugs without the advice of a doctor.
Update: This piece by Anthony Gregory, with the Independent Institute, covers the situation well in my opinion.