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Make DEA Useful Again

08/03/2017

DEA has failed miserably in its mission to reduce the supply of addictive drugs, and physicians lack the training for their unwanted role in preventing diversion. We should reassign DEA agents to remove this burden from physicians which has resulted recently in the murder of one physician and prison for others.

Physicians who prescribe controlled substances feel obligated to go to great lengths to determine whether a potential recipient of such drugs might pass them on to others or abuse the drugs themselves. They devise elaborate strategies including drug testing, "pill counts," and other non-medical activities which lead them to resent patients who in turn resent the feeling that the physician distrusts them -- and still often fail. This does not make for a productive physician-patient relationship: Physicians feel like drug cops, and patients feel (quite accurately) distrusted by physicians.

Let us transfer this role from the physician to DEA agents.

Restrict the physician prescriber's role to recommending the drug, dose and number of doses, but before the pharmacy sells the drug to the patient a DEA agent assesses the risk of abuse or diversion. Let the DEA agent count the pills, order the drug testing and review evidence suggestive of potential for drug abuse. Patients deemed unworthy of possessing the drug could return to the physician for alternative recommendations. Those deemed worthy would receive clearance for purchase of the drug.

Make the physician-patient relationship great again.