OPIOIDS: DOCTORS TO BLAME?

As doctors race to stop the epidemic, a new question has surfaced: are they the ones to blame for the problem?

Aired on May 3, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO METROFOCUS.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

OUR DOCTORS TO BLAME FOR THE OPIOID CRISIS?

ASK THE MAJORITY OF NEW YORKERS AND THEY SAY YES ACCORDING TO FINDING BY SIENNA COLLEGE.

OTHERS SAY IT'S THE DRUG MANUFACTURERS AND DISTRIBUTORS.

WHILE MANY FINGERS CAN BE POINTED AT VARIOUS ENTITIES, WHAT IS CERTAIN AND SAD THAT ACCORDING TO THIS NEW SURVEY, OVER HALF OF ALL NEW YORKERS HAVE FELT THE IMPACT OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN SOME WAY.

ONE OF THE JOURNALISTS REPORTING FROM THE FRONT LINES OF THIS BATTLE IS TIMES UNION REPORTER BETHANY BUMP WHO JOINS US WITH THE DETAILS ON PRESCRIPTION FOR PROGRESS.

BETHANY, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

SO WHEN IT COMES TO THE ORIGINAL OF WHOSE FAULT IS THIS OPIOID CRISIS, WHAT IS YOUR REPORTING LEADING YOU TO UNDERSTAND.

ACCORDING TO THIS SIENNA COLLEGE SURVEY CONDUCTED A LARGE NUMBER OF NEW YORKERS BELIEVE THAT DOCTORS REALLY ARE THE ONES TO BLAME HERE FOR OVERPRESCRIBING OPIOID PAIN PILLS, YOU KNOW, SOMEBODY GOES IN FOR A BROKEN FOOT OR GET A WISDOM TOOTH OUT AND LEAVE WITH A BOTTLE OF 60 HIDE ROE CODEINE.

THEY FEEL THE DOCTORS HAVE BEEN CAVALIER.

BUT IF YOU WERE TO TALK TO PHYSICIANS AND OTHER PEOPLE ON FRONT LINES OF THIS THEY SAY THERE ARE A LOT OF FACTORS AT PLAY HERE.

WHAT WE SAW IN LIKE THE LATE '80s AND '90s WAS THE PUSH FROM ACCREDITING AGENTS TO PUSH HOSPITALINGS TO ADDRESS PAIN AS THE FIFTH VITAL SIGN.

THE HOSPITALS WERE RATED ACCORDING TO PATIENT SATISFACTION.

WELL THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THE PATIENT SATISFIED WAS TO GIVE THEM THE MEDICATION TO DEAL WITH PAIN.

AND SO YOU REALLY HEARD FROM PHYSICIANS SAYING IT'S NOT ALL OF OUR FAULT.

AND WE ALSO SAW WHEN GOVERNMENT STARTED TO REALIZE THAT THERE WAS A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE BECOMING ADDICTED TO THE PAIN PILLS THEY STARTED TO CRACK DOWN ON THE PRESCRIPTION OF THEM.

AND ONCE THEY DID THAT IT STARTED TO FUEL THIS BLACK MARKET.

A LOT OF PEOPLE HAD ADDICTIONS TO THE PILLS AND COULDN'T GET THEM AT THE DOCTOR OFFICE.

AND THEY TURNED TO THE STREETS.

AND DRUG DEALERS WERE MORE THAN HAPPY TO MEET THE DEMAND.

A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CRITICAL OF THE FACT THAT THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY HAS A STRONG LOBBYING FRONT AND IT'S MADE IT DIFFICULT FOR ANYTHING TO HAPPEN AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.

WHAT IS YOUR RECORDING SHOWING REGARDING THE ROLE OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY?

BECAUSE THEY DON'T COME FROM NO WHERE.

LET A LOT OF DOCTORS HAD AN IDEA THAT THE DRUGS COULD BE ADDICTIVE.

BUT THEY DIDN'T KNOW THE QUANTITY.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SAID THIS IS ON THE DRUG MANUFACTURERS.

THEY KNEW THAT THESE DRUGS THIS HAD ADDICTIVE QUALITIES AND THEY WERE ASKING TO MAKE A BUCKET.

THEY ININCENTIVIZING DOCTORS TO OVERPRESCRIBE.

AT THE END OF FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR NEARLY 500 COUNTIES AND 300 CITIES AND TOWNS HAVE FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE DRUG COMPANIES OR TALKED ABOUT FILING A LAWSUIT AGAINST THEM.

WE HAVE SEEN THAT HERE IN NEW YORK.

THE STATE ITSELF HAS JOINED ONTO THE LAWSUITS, AS HAVE NEW YORK CITY AND A BUNCH OF COUNTIES HERE IN THE CAPITAL REGION.

WHEN YOU MENTIONED THE BLACK MARKET, AND A LOT OF THE DRUGS POPPED UP THERE WHEN PEOPLE COULDN'T GET THEM PRESCRIBED BY THE DOCTORS, WHAT'S THE SOURCE OF THE DRUGS ON THE BLACK MARKET?

INITIALLY WHAT WE SAW AS THE PRESCRIPTION DRUGSY O WERE CUT OFF WAS A FLOODING OF HEROIN ON THE MARKET.

HEROIN WAS KIND OF A DRUG FROM DECADES PAST BUT SORT OF SURGED AGAIN AFTER THE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS WERE INCREASINGLY BEING MONITORED AND COULD YOU TELL O CUT DOWN.

WHAT IS CONCERNING PEOPLE IN THE FIELD RIGHT NOW IS THAT WE ARE SEEING NOT JUST HEROIN BUT ALL KINDS OF STREET DRUGS.

WE ARE SEEING HOME MADE XANAX, COCAINE BEING INCREASINGLY LACED WITH FENTANYL WHICH IS A VERY POWERFUL OPIATE.

PRESCRIBED TYPICALLY TO CANCER PATIENTS AT THE END OF LIFE.

IT'S ABOUT 50 FOOIMS TIMES STRONGER THAN HEROIN.

AND THE FENTANYL IS FREQUENTLY COMING FROM CHINA.

AND IT'S IN THE DRUG SUPPLY AND A LOT OF DEALERS DON'T KNOW IT'S IN THE SUPPLY.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT WHAT'S BEING DONE TO ADDRESS THIS.

IN THE CAPITOL REGION WE HAVE A FEW EXAMPLES.

WE HAVE A LOCAL HOSPITAL THAT SORT OF RECOGNIZED WHEN SOMEONE GOES TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM AND THEY'RE IN WITHDRAWAL FROM OPIOID MEDICATION THEY FREQUENTLY GET TURNED AWAY.

AND THE REASON FOR THIS IS BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT AT RISK OF DYING.

LIKE SOMEONE WITH AN ALCOHOL ADDICTION OR SOMEONE ADDICTED TO BENZODIAZEPINE.

THEY WON'T DIE FROM THE WITHDRAWAL.

THEY'LL FEEL LIKE THEY'RE GOING TO DIE BUT WON'T.

A LOT OF EMERGENCY ROOMS ARE PRIORITIZED FOR PEOPLE THAT WILL DIE.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THAT MOMENT IS THE PERSON TERRIFIED OF THEIR WITHDRAWAL PAINS AND NOT GETTING HELP AT THE HOSPITAL AT THE EMERGENCY ROOM IS GOING BACK OUT ONTO THE STREET AND USING THEIR DRUGS, BECAUSE THEY'RE TERRIFIED OF THEIR PAIN.

WE HAD A LOCAL HOSPITAL, ST. PETER HERE IN ALBANY RECENTLY OPENED SEVERAL WALK-IN CLINICS AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS AROUND THE REGION.

AND WHAT HAPPENS IS SOMEONE IS TURNED AWAY FROM THE EMERGENCY ROOM.

THEY'LL BE REFERRED TO THE CLINICS.

RIGHT AWAY THEY WILL GET DOSED WITH GOES BY THE NAME OF SOBOXIN TREATING THE CRAVINGS THEY HAVE FOR THE DRUG.

ELIMINATE THE WITHDRAWAL PAIN.

AND THEY CAN STAY ON THAT DRUG UNTIL THEY MOVE UP ON A WAITING LIST FOR AN ACTUAL DETOX OR REHAB BED.

WELL BETHANY I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR REPORTING, PRESCRIPTION FOR PROGRESS IS THE NAME OF THE SERIES, I BELIEVE.

. AND WE WILL FOLLOW YOUR WORK AS THIS CONTINUES TO UNFOLD IN NEW YORK BUT ALSO ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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