Patients with persistent pain and people on Attention Deficit Disorder medications will soon be able to get more of the powerful drugs they depend on every day, thanks to new Drug Enforcement Agency guidelines.
That will mean a lot for Lisa Turner.
Every step she takes shoots pain through her legs and back. Medication helps, but it leaves her groggy and unable to drive.
Yet, Turner—who has degenerative disc disease—finds a ride to her doctor's office every month.
"I live an hour and 15 minutes from here, east in McKinney," she said. "It's really hard for me to get down here, and I can't work, so the cost is a lot, too."
New DEA guidelines will let Turner and others like her get three-month supplies of some of America's most addictive drugs, including Oxycontin, Ritalin and Methadone.
Current rules limit refills to 30 days.
For four years, Turner has visited her doctor monthly for what are essentially, checkups to get her next prescription. She had to pay for each office visit.
With the change, Turner will save $450 every three months. Her insurance co-paments will drop, and so will her office charges.
Pain Management specialist Dr. Lemond Lou said it's time to concentrate on helping the patients. "It's just like treating someone with hypertension and diabetes," he said. "If there is no hint of abuse; if they're legitimate patients; if they're appropriate medications; we want to treat them like regular people."
Instead, Dr. Lou said the patients are stigmatized by the actions of a few.
Federal statistics show five percent of patients become addicted to these Schedule II drugs.
Out of more than one million doctors licensed to sell narcotics in the U.S., the DEA prosecuted just 67 last year for prescription abuse.
"It is always a potential risk, but the practical practitioner is not going to see those that often if they're doing good, legitimate practices," Dr. Lou said.
Lisa Turner said she has no reason to abuse her prescription. "If I did, I wouldn't have the medication when I need it," she said.
"When I don't have the medication, it's unbearable."
The 90-day rule will take effect after a two-month period for consumers to submit comments.
I happen to think this is a great move in the right direction. My spouse has scripts for two scheduled medications and it is a great hassle to get a new prescription every month.