On his trips to the doctor, my dad liked to pick up a new, thick-bodied pen for his crossword puzzles from the cupful of pens left by the pharmaceutical sales reps who breeze through waiting rooms to add time to everyone’s doctor visits. These are the same reps who have apparently encouraged Oklahoma doctors to prescribe opioids to the tune of ranking Oklahoma third among all states in 2017 in long-range opioid prescriptions. Makes one wonder if some docs received more than free pens.
Well, a real news team from real news CNN reported last month: ”As tens of thousands of Americans die from prescription opioid overdoses each year, an exclusive analysis by CNN and researchers at Harvard University found that opioid manufacturers are paying physicians huge sums of money – and the more opioids a doctor prescribes, the more money he or she makes.
“In 2014 and 2015, opioid manufacturers paid hundreds of doctors across the country six-figure sums for speaking, consulting and other services. Thousands of other doctors were paid over $25,000 during that time. Physicians who prescribed particularly large amounts of the drugs were the most likely to get paid.”
“’It smells like doctors being bribed to sell narcotics, and that’s very disturbing,’” according to Brandeis senior scientist Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who is the executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
Continuing from the CNN report: “Carey Ballou said she trusted her doctor and figured that if he was prescribing opioids, it must be because they were the best option for her pain. Then she learned that opioid manufacturers paid her doctor more than a million dollars over two years. “’Once I found out he was being paid, I thought, ‘was it really in my best interest, or was it in his best interest?’ she said.”
Over-prescribing opioids was not in the best interest of the Panhandle doctor who was sentenced to eight months in jail for prescriptions that could not be justified medically. And a Midwest City physician has been charged with second degree murder related to five opioid overdose deaths. Another doctor, serving eight years after pleading guilty in 2014 to eight counts of second degree murder for his prescription practices, recently lost a $20 million wrongful death suit.
Our president, taking a cue from Philippines’ autocratic President Rodrigo Duterte, has suggested executing drug dealers. “‘Ah, Rodrigo, you’re doing all right. I’ll copy you. I’ll kill the sons-of-b******,'” the CBC quoted Duterte recalling our president’s diplomatic acumen during a phone conversation.
Not sure if over-prescribing doctors are on Trump’s hit list, but similar out-of-the box thinking has surfaced previously. Way back in his 2001 “Brain Droppings,” the ever-observant George Carlin suggested that extending the death penalty to drug dealers was a very “stupid” idea. His reasoning: “Drug dealers aren’t afraid to die. They’re already killin’ each other by the hundreds every day….The death penalty means very little unless you use it on people who are afraid to die. Like the bankers who launder the drug money. Forget dealers. If you want to slow down the drug traffic, you have to start executing some of these white, middle-class Republican bankers.”
But, we digress.
Almost 300 years ago, Thomas Gordon, writing as Cato, observed, “I would lay it down as a rule for all nations to consider and observe, that where bribery is practiced, ’tis a thousand to one but mischief is intended; and the more bribery, the more mischief. When therefore the people, or their trustees, are bribed, they would do well to consider, that it is not, it cannot be, for their own sakes.”
Of course, medical marijuana as a pain reliever would be cheaper and safer for all concerned. And, while it should be against the law to put State amendments on partisan primary ballots, remember that Independents can vote in the Democratic Primary June 26. (I would prefer such non-committals to vote only on SQ 788 and leave picking Democratic candidates to real Democrats, but that’s another vote I lost.)
Now, if we could just get the GOP to kick its Koch addiction.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)