One of the tragic things about the War on Drugs is how drug warriors are increasingly intimidating doctors who are trying to relieve their patients as they suffer in agonizing pain. (See here and here and here for more.) It should be pointed out, of course, that the doctors treating severe pain know a lot more about medicine, the specific needs of their patients and the real risks of opioid painkillers than the politicians do.
We should be skeptical of grandstanding politicians like Joe Manchin (a Democratic U.S. Senator from West Virginia) as he loudly denounces the Food and Drug Administration for providing guidelines for OxyContin prescriptions that doctors all over the country already have the legal authority to provide to pediatric patients
Opioid painkiller abuse is a serious problem. But whatever problems one may have with the manufacturer of OxyContin or other opioids, the decision for a prescription is ultimately made by the doctor caring for the child and that child’s family – not the pharmaceutical company. As long as the doctor is competent and ethical, we should leave the choice of medical care up to him without being micromanaged by the federal government or bullied by law enforcement. If one of my sons was suffering from horrible pain, I would want every option on the table to provide relief while responsibly managing the risks the painkillers carry.
Bloviating politicians aside, this was a medically sound and compassionate decision by the FDA. While Congress is wise to conduct oversight, the self-aggrandizing pronouncements of career politicians like Joe Manchin do little to address real drug abuse while potentially doing serious harm to children suffering from pain. I trust the doctors all across this land as to what medicine is appropriate far more than I trust the U.S. Senate.