Public television stations across the country have begun airing a documentary about pain treatment produced by a doctor with significant financial ties to the manufacturers of opioid medications — a fact not disclosed in the program.

“The Painful Truth” chronicles the plight of several patients struggling to find effective treatment for chronic pain. Throughout the 57-minute-long program, politicians, federal agencies, and others are depicted as having overreacted to the epidemic of opioid-related overdoses; the documentary suggests pain specialists have been discouraged from prescribing opioids to patients who genuinely need them.

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  • I’m repeatedly struck by how chronic pain sufferers and their supporters present their arguments in measured, factual ways, while their detractors come across as being on the verge of emotional collapse. But when you start looking at the relative merits of the statements coming from each camp, you begin to realize that the detractors have been wrong from the beginning. If I’d been involved in pushing thousands of people to suicide because I helped promote a half-baked ideology which has no credible basis in science (although I kept telling people it did) I’d probably get a little wound up, too. On the other side, the proponents of medically-supervised opioid treatment can produce truck loads of peer-reviewed papers to anyone who wants to see them. The detractors kept talking about “evidence based” arguments, but were unable to produce any. Then they started talking about “emerging evidence”, but couldn’t come up with any of that, either.

    The most fundamental flaw in this hysteria is this: the opioid detractors refuse to listen to or accept the argument that chronic pain sufferers have nothing to do with the opioid crisis. Pain specialists agree that virtually no prescribed opioids wind up on the street.

    Opioid detractors like to talk about “treatment options” for chronic pain sufferers, covering everything from acceptance to yoga but not goat sacrifices (yet). If you’re a multi-millionaire in New York, ok (being a mere millionaire probably won’t do it) but for the remaining 99% of us, those options aren’t available. Besides, we don’t need options – we have opioids, which are safe and effective when administered and monitored by qualified professionals.

    Opioid detractors are starting to feel the heat. At least two regulatory bodies caved when confronted with a law suit. Chronic pain sufferers have learned at least one thing since uninformed, unqualified, nitpicking bureaucrats started destroying their lives – they can smell blood a continent away.

    I take Dr. Webster at his word. He says the work is independent. He’s a man of considerable integrity, as we know. You should only hope, when you’re in severe pain, that he’s around to help you.

    • As a person in pain from a rare neurological condition that has tried lyrica and became suicidal, you name it it’s tried it, the only thing that works is opiates, but I’m treated as a criminal no dignity at all, I’ve never been a drug addict and if you had told me if need narcotics to just get through a day I’d have said you were full of BS get here I am fighting just to survive, even the insurance companies have decided they know more than my doctor’s! If I commit suicide it will be from the stress society has decided is ok to inflict on me and other pain suffers

  • Thanks, Roy Green. I’m glad you are working on this. Your comments about what to ask about seem EXTREMELY relevant. What is happening is horrific. Very glad Dr Webster was brave enough to help that person.

    • Perhaps listen to my interview of Canada’s federal Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Philpott. Decide for yourself if the official view of opioids for good people in terrible pain distress is acceptable. You will find a link in my tweets list @theroygreenshow. There’s much more including physician and pain patient interviews. A national journalist Dawn Rae Downton who is also a chronic pain patient wrote a column in the Canadian newspaper the Globe & Mail and spoke on air about her suicide plan if her fentanyl prescription of 12 yrs is significantly reduced or stopped. Dawn Rae Downton’s husband participated in that broadcast. See my show page on any Corus radio network stations carrying my program. A particularly supportive of pain patients interview was with Dr. Mary Redmond, pain management physician from Ottawa with a patient roster of 1200. Listen to a pain doctor who openly challenges the notion that pain patients should be stripped of the only medications which provide some quality of life. Another prominent doctor emailed pain management physicians are communica

  • I am a national broadcaster in Canada and my focus recently has been chronic pain patients living a life of horror. I have an idea for a follow-up. Perhaps publish a piece which attacks patients who inform me on and off air they are close to suicide?Perhaps you might consider asking pain physicians if they are noticing an increase in the numbers of their pain patients committing suicide. I have interviewed Dr. Lynn Webster and referred a mid-thirties wife and mother of a 10 year old child to him precisely because she told me off and on air her own doctor had hugely cut her opioid dosage with the remark ‘well it’s not your license on the line.” A frequent remark from chronic pain patients. Dr. Webster did not hesitate for a moment and reached out to physicians in my guest’s home state. She will be seen. A husband and child may not lose a wife and mother, unlike the wife and daughter of 53 year old Doug Hale who shot himself after physicians and pain clinics left him dealing with 24/agony. I only wish I’d known about Dr. Lynn Webster early enough to inform him of Doug Hale. My dominant area of on air discussion is Canada. However, after reading the above article it seemed appropriate to inform

  • To Name With Held from the National Pain Patients Coalition:

    What in the WORLD are you talking about? You state “It makes intuitive sense to believe that Pharma may have funded “The Painful Truth.” As an advocacy group, we represent “patients perspectives” and are also making a documentary. We refuses to take $ from any opioid maker. ” — I never mentioned anything about this in my comments, so exactly what do I stand corrected on????

    As to the rest of your comment “BTW all of the “injections references above” are NOT FDA approved and most insurance won’t even, cover massage. Let us address addiction, but taking the most effective analgesics away from handicapped, elderly, and those with documented painful diseases and/or conditions is medically, ethically, and legally atrocious.” — Well, that’s exactly what I’ve said! These injections are dangerous, not FDA-approved, and potentially very crippling, and of course pain patients should have access to their medications. I’ve called these atrocious polices genocide.

    So what in the world are you talking about, or are you talking to someone else and just addressing me by mistake? If this comment was to me, it was very rude because I did not respond as you accuse.

  • National Pain Coalition has the right idea.
    These opioids should be given to those with Chronic Pain.
    We are not addicts.
    I never increased my perscription at all.
    If anything I stayed below what I could take for 15 years.
    I am almost 60 and in good health except that with NO opioids…I drink now & I hate that. Makes me fat and is worse for me than any pill I was prescribed.
    I just think the Primary Care Dr should know his patient and go slow.
    My Dr knew a “drug” seeker and the people who were sent in for pills for a third party.
    Believe it or not,an experienced and educated Dr in this field can identify whether someone warrants Pain Meds such as these or not.
    Alcohol kills people too and is more addicting. But no one has quit selling it.
    I think this whole thing over Opioids is blown out of porportion.
    I think Drs that just gave pills without a patients history are to blame in part.
    Its is like prescribing anything else.
    Why do you give a person Blood Thinners?
    Because they have a WORSE underlying condition.
    Same rules apply for ALL medications.
    There is always a place and a time.
    Not everyone fits into the same herd of sheep.
    Denying effective treatment is a disservice to many.

  • Melissa Davis

    What exactly is the role of Next Healthcare Inc. Why would a Stem Cell company be interested in Pain Medications and Alternative Remedies?

  • Hi there,

    My name is Melissa Davis and when I came across this article on Stat news this afternoon I felt elated that I wasn’t the only one that realized that there were a lot of key things about the “opioid epidemic” and “chronic pain” that were missing.

    I have also worked at the front lines of the opioid epidemic as an opioid addiction / pain management counsellor and I’m now involved in helping with a chronic pain and addiction documentary “NOT” funded by big pharma or any corporate entities. Our goal is to be completely unbiased and true to our audience. We’ve started a campaign on Indiegogo and we need help spreading the word!

    Our Indiegogo campaign will help us raise funds and awareness for this critical media piece. View the campaign and trailer at https://igg.me/at/NarcoticaBreakingFree

    Why

    More than 120 million North Americans suffer from Chronic Pain. Deaths from opioid overdoses have surpassed those from car accidents. Our current healthcare system has not adequately provided access or funding for comprehensive solutions to improve care leaving many patients disabled and demoralized. Chronic Pain costs US$600 billion annually in the U.S. alone – more than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined.

    About the Documentary

    NARCOTICA: Breaking Free will shed a new light on safe and alternative pain therapies — and freely spread the message that every person suffering with chronic pain deserves choices for relief. We will examine non-narcotic alternatives for pain management and reveal honest perspectives from patients, caregivers and physicians; bringing the issues surrounding chronic pain to the forefront in hopes of influencing change.

    Who’s Involved

    We’ve teamed up with 2x Emmy & 7x Telly award winning Yellow Dog Productions from Madison, Wisconsin. They have experience covering critical social and humanitarian stories from around the world. Our trailer was funded privately by us and we have already been awarded two cinematography awards! We are enlisting the top minds and providers in the pain management space to help pain sufferers break free of their dependence on opioid pain killers.

    We are trying very hard to get the word out about our documentary, but feel drowned out in the media. Please share this with anyone you know that is suffering from pain.

    Thank you for your time!

    Melissa Davis

    A Better World Films
    Narcotica: Breaking Free
    LinkedIn https://ca.linkedin.com/in/melissaannedavis

    • Melissa, are you completely anti-opioid? It’s a bit hard to tell where you’re coming from, especially since insurance won’t pay for most alternative therapies. For MANY patients, there is literally no adequate alternative to opioids — they are what works best for many individuals.

    • No, we are not against opioids as we know they have a place in pain management. We are also aware that alternative treatments aren’t always covered by insurance, but many are recommended by the CDC and other chronic pain authorities. We know that opioids will always be part of chronic pain, but at the same time we know what else is possible.

      Also, we want our film to not only be watched by patients and caregivers, but also by the providers, government and insurance companies as they are the ones that ultimately change policies. We are diligently trying to get our message to state, local and government authorities to hopefully shift the industry towards recommended actions and therapies.

      With all of the new regulations and controversies in the news right now, we know that doctors are going to start weaning patients off opioids or cut them off completely and we just want to let the patients know about the alternatives.

      We also want to follow patients in pain to reveal how they are managing to triumph over a system that in many ways is working against them.

      Some of the treatments we would like to include in our story are:

      Physical
      – Acupuncture
      – Exercise
      – Chiropractic Manipulation
      – Yoga
      – Massage
      – Therapeutic Touch & Reiki Healing

      Medical Procedures and Techniques
      – Epidural Steroid Injection
      – Facet Joint Injection
      – Trigger Point Injection
      – Lumbar Sympathetic Block
      – Celiac Plexus Block
      – Stellate Ganglion Block
      – Quantifiable Pain Measurement Devices

      Mental
      – Psychological Counselling
      – CBT
      – Group Therapy
      – Yoga
      – Relaxation Techniques
      – Hypnosis
      – Guided Imagery
      – Music Therapy
      – Virtual reality
      – Bio Feedback

      Medications
      – Marijuana
      – Non steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Acetaminophen
      – Antidepressants
      – Anticonvulsants
      – Muscle Relaxants
      – Supplements
      – Vitamins
      – Non-opioid medications and Over the Counter
      – Nutritional Supplements
      – Herbal remedies

    • Wow, there is so much wrong with this!!! Interventional procedures, especially ESIs (epidural steroid injections) are Russian Roulette on the human body. You need to look up and thoroughly investigate Adhesive Arachnoiditis, which is NOT a rare disease — I and 10s of thousands (probably more, it’s ignored) of other patients have it, thanks to our doctors. It even affects laboring mothers, crippling them before they can even hold their newborns.

      NSAIDS and tylenol are far more dangerous than opioids, as are nasty drugs like gabapentic and lyrica. And no amount of counseling, mindfulness, or other hocus-pocus will replace opioids. They may helpl as adjunct therapies, but certainly not without real pain management. Counsellors are apt to tell you that your pain is “all in your head” and you can just “think it away” — hogwash.

      I haven’t given up on this fight against our government (and I’m truly sorry that you have), forcing pain patients to die — it is genocide via torture, nothing more or nothing less. Opioids are needed, period. NO SUBSTITUTES HAVE BEEN CREATED TO REPLACE THEM. My government has no right to interfere with my doctors’ treatment of me, as an individual. Pain management cannot be cookie-cutter medicine, which is what it has become, fattening the pockets of greedy doctors by refusing affordable opioid prescription and coercing patients into dangerous, potentially deadly procedures.

      SOME DISEASES CANNOT BE CURED!!!!! They need realistic and adequate pain management, and you will not get that without opioid assistance. We can’t get out of bed in the morning, yet you want us to do yoga!!!!! Insanity, all of it. If you want to help, find a way to make TRUE palliative care available to us who are suffering.

    • Dear Lauri…It makes intuitive sense to believe that Pharma may have funded “The Painful Truth.” As an advocacy group, we represent “patients perspectives” and are also making a documentary. We refuses to take $ from any opioid maker. So you stand corrected. BTW all of the “injections references above” are NOT FDA approved and most insurance won’t even, cover massage. Let us address addiction, but taking the most effective analgesics away from handicapped, elderly, and those with documented painful diseases and/or conditions is medically, ethically, and legally atrocious. Sincerely,
      name with held

  • Off the top: The major funding for the media ‘war’ on opioids is coming from Eli Lilly (with the collaboration of Purdue). They’ve put a mere 1.8 billion into a drug, Tenazumab, whose main competitors are the almost totally generic opioids, with minimal return for the true Big Pharma members, like themselves. (Purdue patented Oxycontin, which is becoming a loss leader.

    And guess who is a proud new sponser of NPR? Uh, Eli Lilly, now also utilizing ‘trusted’ media to disseminate propaganda that no one at NPR, or most media, has the industry experience or scientific knowledge to scrutinize in depth. Plus, it’s another meal ticket.

    Having interviewed with Lilly decades ago for a HQ marketing position, I paid a lot of attention to the field and the dirty pool it plays, far nastier than the public realizes, and one tactic used years ago was to fund studies against a competitor–studies eventually discredited, as with Darvon, implicating them in overdose fatalities, when the death was basically a ‘medicine cabinet’ suicide attempt.

    In the case of opioids, a grad student couldn’t get a paper passed with the research the CDC is claiming as the basis for their determinations, and the head of the CDC, Kolodny, mouths–almost verbatim–false statistics and statements uttered by the chairman of Eli Lilly.

    Lilly hasn’t been able to get Tenazumab past the FDA due to the already demonstrated potential severe side effects of inhibing nerve growth factor, such as loss of limbs, which their press releases omit, citing occasional slight increase in osteoarthritis.

    As far as spurious data in the fatalities, the basic stats used to come up with the draconian measures, measures resulting in suicides (and likely my own shortly, unless I can survive a severe condition caused by a corrupt provider in Oregon long enough to leave the US) came from a study in Washington state, based on billing data from Workers Comp info. WA forced its Medicaid et al. pain patients to transfer to methadone, notorious for variations in individual metabolism. The study itself is sound and the author states that the majority of deaths involved methadone. What isn’t sound is extrapolating a highly specific group, identified in other medical studies as not being comparable even to patients with the same diagnoses, due to the circumstances and incentives in play. Plus, the range of conditions, age, etc., is not at all translatable to the general population of the US.

    In addition the determination of the cutoff range for effective opioid treatment, beyond which there was supposed to be no improvement in relief but higher levels of overdose, was taken from the WC billing data, a population whose injuries are not necessarily best addressed by opioid treatment and whose surrounding issues lead to considerably higher rates of depression.

    Why would Kolodny and the rest of the outfits with a dog in this fight use such bogus information, which, unfortunately, the very pain mgmt MDs have swallowed without research or reservation?

    Most of the opioid deaths also involve alcohol and possibly Xanax–Xanax already being an indicator of anxiety and which could be used as a red flag on drug testing. 28,000, the inflated number of deaths quoted in the propaganda?
    The annual number of alcohol-related deaths? 88,000.

    The worst part of this is the inhumane and medically unsound way in which the recommendations have been translated into law, which is literally genocide. There have been loads of governmental studies showing concern for the growing population of seniors, those who have lived long enough to acquire injuries and painful conditions which can be safely and effectively managed by the right meds–in my case oxycodone and oxymorphine, and, in contrast to the propaganda, many of us do not require ever escalating doses and have far fewer side effects than constant cortisol release due to severe pain, coupled with immobilization.

    TMI: I think it may be too late for me to find adequate treatment–no family leftand in a town, Pittsburgh, where I moved to see if there might be some address to severe bilateral glenohumeral chondrolysis, with nerve damage due to the toxicity of the anesthetics and hip damage*, where it’s beyond hopeless.

    After putting myself through three degrees, never smoking or abusing drugs, rarely having a drink and running 5 miles a day for years, I’m treated at as an addict and as yet haven’t been able to obtain a prescription that will allow me to take care of myself or want to survive.

    What’s ironic is that Lilly grossly overestimated its potential market for Tenazumab, as it’s more than likely there won’t be many of us left by the time it gets its way. (After which, like Baycol, which was predicably dangerous from the getgo, but needed 31 deaths to confirm, it will be off the market and it will be back to opioids with ‘we’re sorry we failed to anticipate the disastrous unintended consequences of our short-sighted policies. Mr. Kolodny will, of course, have a several million dollar a year with….)

  • Bruce, you may think you know it all, but, you are a truly ignorant excuse for a human being. If you actually “knew” what you were talking about, you would know, what you read is propoganda. How much pain are you in 24/7 , 365, for Years, not days, or even weeks, unrelenting , honest to gosh, pain, that , if lucky, can distract yourself long enough to give you just a little time out of a day, of maybe just a little less pain? Most of true cpp, have so much pain, they would give their souls to make it stop, even for a little while. Opioids are far from perfect, and have their risks, which, btw, every cpp, decides and judges the result , if it is worth the trade off. Did you also know Bruce, that untreated pain, causes brain loss? Takes 10 years off their lives? Also, were you aware that pain patients do not get ‘high’ , get ‘buzzed”? Simply put, the med is going to area in brain where pain is, so, they dont get anything but pain relief? You might wanna check these little tidbits, as you will learn. Learn before you say another ignorant thing.

  • Wow, David Armstrong, how about the next time you write an article, include actual facts, true statistics, and stop lying about what Dr. Webster told you. Better yet, issue him, and all the chronic pain patients he represents, an enormous apology for your callousness and your ignorance. Here’s an article that’s composed of the TRUTH — the TRUTH you chose to ignore and/or lie about:

    https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2017/3/30/pbs-documentary-producer-responds-to-stat-news

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