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Pain Doctors Feel Effects Of New Opioid Laws, Recent Clinic Closures

Posted: 5:36 PM, Sep 04, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-04 23:59:25Z

The statewide effort to crack down on the opioid epidemic and recent pain clinics closing have mid-state doctors and patients adjusting to a new normal.

In July, a new law took effect that limited the number of drugs a physician can prescribe to patients. In return, the Tennessee Pain Society says doctors have opted out from keeping up with stricter rules.

"A lot of primary care providers are no longer prescribing. Plenty of them are discharging patients to pain clinics," said Dr. John Schneider, president of the Tennessee Pain Society.

Schneider said he has been receiving a number of referrals from other doctors at four of his Comprehensive Pain & Neurology centers.

His clinics have been busy not only from referrals but calls from chronic pain patients left abandoned by Comprehensive Pain Specialist, whose CEO was charged with Medicare fraud.

The company abruptly closed its doors leaving patients scared of where to find medication they relied on for years, and scrambling to find a different provider.

Many other doctors are simply saturated with patients.

"I've had to hire extra staff so we try to make do the best we can," said Schneider.

For Chantal Burke, she ran out of medication to treat her CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) after CPS closed. 

She relied on morphine among other drugs but is now using herbal medication and a heating pad to ease the pain.

While she managed to find an appointment at a different clinic for a future meeting, she's unclear if she will get the drugs she normally would receive.

Like many, adjusting to the recent closures has been difficult for her.

"I've called maybe six or seven places and they've all been booked because of the onslaught of people. One place had three months booked and they had a few hundred people waiting to get in," said Burke. "I had started a new family doctor who specifically said he will not give out pain medicine."

Schneider said many patients were not accepted into other practices until their medical records are reviewed. 

In addition, he included that pharmacies are not honoring prescriptions given by CPS since they are closed.

In 2015, Schneider said there were more than 350 pain management providers in the state. The number has now dwindled to less than half. 

"There's not a whole lot of providers out there left to treat pain patients with the experience," he added.