My pain medication was stolen.
I left my pill bottle in another city.
My doctor is on vacation.
Your honor, I have a valid prescription for oxycodone.
Medical professionals who deal with patients pitching for pain-relieving narcotics hear the first three stories all the time. The fourth scenario, uttered by a defendant in the drug court in Racine, Wis., helped to inspire the staff at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints hospital in Racine to create an opiate-education program for all of its personnel who can prescribe narcotics.
"The best actors are patients who are trying to scam you," said Dr. David Galbis-Reig, head of the hospital's Opiate Stewardship Committee. "Our goal is to create sound guidelines and alternative treatments so that we aren't overprescribing these medications, or under-prescribing them."
The hospital instituted a mandatory three-session program for all of its prescribers, including staff doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Galbis-Reig said All Saints is encouraging all doctors in its service region to attend them as well.
Abuse of narcotic painkillers is well-documented. So is death by overdose — a threefold increase from 1990 to 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In that same time, the number of opiate prescriptions written increased tenfold.