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Defend Chronic Pain Treatment II

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Last June, DRCNet distributed a bulletin titled "Defend Chronic Pain Treatment," which discussed the under-treatment of severe, chronic pain due to the War on Drugs, and asked DRCNet members and other supporters to contact the Virginia Board of Medicine in support of Dr. William Hurwitz, one of the few physicians willing to prescribe narcotics in adequate dosages to provide meaningful pain relief, whose license the Board had moved to suspend.

The Board of Medicine, after holding a veritable kangaroo court, proceeded to suspend Hurwitz's license, leaving his patients from around the country with empty medicine bottles and nowhere to turn. Hurwitz is now allowed to practice medicine, but with his ability to prescribe narcotics severely restricted. The Board of Pharmacy entirely revoked the license of Jerome Danoff, proprietor of The Medicine Chest, which had filled prescriptions for most of Hurwitz's patients.

Since that time, one of Dr. Hurwitz's former patients has committed suicide because of the severity of his untreated pain; and several more of them have reported being harassed by agents of the DEA. (We wrote about this in our last newsletter, at http://www.drcnet.org/guide10-96/pain.html on the web, including photographs from the Hurwitz hearings in Richmond.)

Last night (Sunday 12/8), 60 Minutes did an expose on the pain situation, featuring Dr. Hurwitz, leading pain expert Dr. Stratton Hill, and a videotape filmed by the patient the day before he committed suicide, explaining that he would rather live with pain medication, but couldn't go on living without it. Representatives of the Board of Medicine did not deny that their action led to this suicide, but said that they needed to protect other patients. Also, they did not deny that Dr. Hurwitz had been exonerated in the deaths of two of his patients, the event that precipitated the Board's action.

The 60 Minutes report has the potential to do a lot of good; but change rarely happens without vigorous grassroots effort. We are writing to ask you to call, fax or write the following people and ask him to enforce Virginia's intractable pain law protecting doctors and overrule the Board of Medicine and the Board of Pharmacy to restore Dr. Hurwitz's right to prescribe narcotics as he has, and to restore Mr. Danoff's license to practice pharmacy. Tell them the war on drugs should not be a war against doctors and patients.

We request that you contact the following people:

1) Lt. Governor Don Beyer. He is likely to be the next Governor in '97, and is likely to be sympathetic. Ask him to intervene on behalf of Dr. Hurwitz and Jerome Danoff. Write to The Hon. Donald S. Beyer, Jr., Supreme Court Bldg., 14th floor, 900 E. Main St., Richmond, VA 23219, (804) 786- 2078 (voice), (804) 786-7514 (fax), [email protected].

2) Virginia Board of Medicine. They need to get heat for their unconscionable stance -- remember, they did not deny that their action led to the patient suicide, nor did they deny that Hurwitz was exonerated with regard to the patient deaths. Ask them to restore full prescribing privileges to Dr. Hurwitz. Write to: Warren W. Koontz, M.D., Executive Director, Board of Medicine, 6606 West Broad St., 4th Floor, Richmond, VA 23230-1717, (804) 662-9943 (fax).

3) Virginia Board of Pharmacy. Ask them to restore Jerome Danoff's license to practice pharmacy. Write to: Virginia Board of Pharmacy, 6606 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23230.

4) Gov. George Allen. Call Gov. Allen's comment line at (804) 786-2211, and/or fax him at (804) 371-6351 or write to: The Hon. George Allen, Office of the Governor, State Capitol, Richmond, VA 23219. Ask him to enforce the state's intractable pain law and intervene on behalf of Dr. Hurwitz and Jerome Danoff.

5) If you live in Virginia, please also contact your state delegate and senator. You can find out who they are and how to contact them at the state legislative information line, (804) 786-6530.

Please distribute this bulletin widely, especially to people who live in Virginia. Last but not least, please e-mail a copy of your letters to [email protected], or send us a note to let us know what actions you took. This information will help us gauge our effectiveness, which will help with our applications to potential funders.

We recommend that you do not talk about legalization in your letters. Pain treatment is about pain treatment. However, the denial of pain treatment is unquestionably a consequence of the drug war, and there is nothing wrong with saying so.

If you saw the 60 Minutes program, you might want to submit a written comment. Send your comments to Attn: Story Editor, 60 Minutes, 524 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019, or fax them to (212) 975-2019. They will probably need to have them by Thursday 12/12 to consider them for reading on the show. Videos of the segment can be ordered at (800) 848- 3256 for $35.95; expect 4-6 weeks for delivery. Transcripts can be ordered for $6 by writing to Burrelle's Transcripts, P.O. Box 7, Livingston, NJ 07039, or for $9 by calling (800) 777-8398.

More information on the pain issue and getting involved can be found at, http://www.drcnet.org/guide10-96/pain.html and http://www.cris.com/~Dlparis/asap/ on the web, or in the October 20 issue of The Activist Guide.

Residents of the Houston area can hear Dr. Stratton Hill speak for the Drug Policy Forum of Texas on Jan. 20. Call (713) 266-4329 or e-mail [email protected] for more information.

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