It’s hard to believe any American physician is unaware of the epidemic, but it appears that many have taken the position that it’s not their problem.

Capitol Building St Paul MinnesotaYou may have read about the surprising delay in FDA approval of mandatory training for physicians in safe use of the painkillers that are front and center in the current epidemic. But the argument continues. Here’s a brief update.

As the article notes, the opposition isn’t coming from Big Pharma. Mandated training might actually work to their advantage. It could put more of the responsibility for abuse on to the prescriber’s shoulders (and off the manufacturer’s). That’s what happened with cigarette warning labels. The labels didn’t really affect sales much, and provided a convenient defense in lawsuits.

No, in this case, the resistance seems to be coming from within the physician community. Some of the objections are practical (we’re short of time, most docs don’t prescribe painkillers anyway), but others appear to be ideological– that there’s already too much government interference in medicine. Some medical schools support training but are determined to develop their own, rather than make use of the Federal model.

It’s hard to believe any American physician is unaware of the epidemic, but it appears that many have taken the position that it’s not their problem. Therefore they shouldn’t be “forced” by an intrusive government to participate in something that they are convinced isn’t their fault.

Sound familiar? It’s the argument used by family members who resist participating in treatment. “It’s not my problem”, they insist. “I don’t see what I can do about it.”

But of course, it is the family’s problem, whether or not they recognize it. And the problem of runaway opioid prescribing is a problem for everybody involved in healthcare– not just the crooks who run the phony pain mills, or the addicts desperately seeking a detox bed.

We hear the same argument about gun control and climate change and Wall Street investment scams: “But I’m not the problem. Why should I be inconvenienced?” We heard it years ago about seat belts and auto emission control. But that’s how things work. Some of us create the problem, but we all have to participate in the solution.

It may not be entirely fair. But it seems to me that it goes hand in hand with the power of the prescription pad.

If at some future point the experts tell us that the problem no longer exists, we can always cancel the training.


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