Caught in the Middle of a Crisis

A mother with breast cancer pulls her car over and records her frustrations after leaving a Rite Aid pharmacy. April Grove Doyle discloses her experiences through a tearful confession that she was frustrated and only gets her pain pills once each month to last 2 or 3 weeks. She takes them to help ease bone pain from her metastatic cancer so “she can function”.

After her pharmacist scolded her for her history of prescription Opioid use, the pharmacist told Doyle to come back at a later time. Then, Doyle left the pharmacy without her medication. She felt judged and mistreated in the handling of her meds. Likely, the pharmacist was aware of the impact Opioids like OxyContin® and Percocet® have had on many Americans. Perhaps, he hoped being vocal with Doyle would help her not become another statistic.

Punished for Pain

American’s Opioid Epidemic takes the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each year. Many of them were once patients who suffered chronic pain and sought prescription meds to combat their symptoms. Consequently, many quickly become dependent on the powerful painkillers and, once their prescription doesn’t produce the same effects, increase their dosage or experiment with fatal illicit Opioids like Heroin or Black Tar Heroin.

Additionally, patients taking prescription pain relievers have gone as far as “doctor shopping” to get more access to pills. Doctor shopping entails patients visiting multiple doctors and exaggerating their pain, faking it entirely, or purposely injuring themselves to get more medication. In turn, patients have sold these medications for more powerful street drugs or crushed, snorted, or injected the pills for themself.

All of the above create problems for all parties involved. It places doctors and pharmacists liable for the disbursement of pain meds and patients who consume multiple prescriptions liable if they visit different doctors. This is problematic considering 50 million Americans endure chronic pain and need or use pain medication.

As a result of the Opioid crisis, many public officials have pushed campaigns against prescribing any Opioids. Despite these attempts, patients suffering chronic pain have begun to protest. Their movement, “Don’t Punish Pain”, has gained traction in several states and led to a rally in Atlanta at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

From her car, Doyle posted the video to bring awareness and assert her rights to medication. Unfortunately, Doyle is far from the only patient scolded for getting medication for pain. Many other patients continue to face the same experience.

Rite Aid later apologized and filled her meds accordingly.

Suicide’s Link to a Lack of Opioid Access

In previous years, doctors wrote as many as 199 million prescriptions in the U.S. each year. Since then, Opioid prescribing rates have declined. Consequently, 1 in 4 cancer patients have experienced more difficulty in getting their pain medication despite the availability of the meds. An additional 30% of cancer patients could not get treatment because of insurance reasons.

As an unintended result, patients with chronic pain have fallen victim to suicides and exhibited suicidal behavior. Individuals suffering with chronic pain may also experience heart problems and depression. These can escalate to an inability to complete everyday tasks like working, being alert in classes for school, and providing necessary connection for relationships.

To bring awareness to their suffering, chronic pain patients have started to gather outside pharmacies, holding signs and protesting new Opioid regulations.