Leading pain and addiction experts are calling for those receiving opiate-based painkillers, many of whom are seniors, to be routinely tested. This is to ensure that those receiving prescriptions for opioids such as OxyContin are taking the drug and not selling it on.
Opiate-based drugs are sought after by addicts, who as well as ‘doctor-shopping’ for prescriptions, may also be ‘fossil pharming’ – getting the elderly to sell their drugs, says head of pain management at the Royal Adelaide Hospital Dr Penny Briscoe. She reports that there is evidence of seniors selling medication to supplement their pensions, with a palliative care patient recently admitting to selling his drugs to boost his income.
Dr Philip Crowley, a medication specialist, said urine testing on all patients receiving opioids should be standard. “There’s a strong economic incentive to sell these drugs. You can sell one Kapanol [morphine] tablet for up to $80, so if you get a pack of 20, you can certainly make enough to pay your rent and power bill,” he said.
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Recent reports that elderly patients are selling their prescription opiates to supplement their income are hardly surprising. With pensioners struggling to survive on an Age Pension, it’s only natural that people will look at ‘clever’ ways to make money.
However, I think the labelling of seniors as drug pushers is unfair and is just another way of taking a swipe at an easy target. Pensioners are not the only demographic which is struggling to pay the bills, nor are they the only ones who have access to such painkillers. Older people have been prescribed such opioids because they need them and I don’t believe they are any more likely than others to suffer in pain, just to pay the bills.
Forcing patients to have a compulsory urine test to continue receiving their pain medication is degrading and completely unnecessary and puts yet more pressure on a health service struggling to cope with demand for services. Resources would be better spent dealing with the growing number of addicts who are looking to purchase such drugs to feed their habits.
An increase in the Age Pension wouldn’t go amiss either.
Do you know of anyone who has sold pain medication on the black market? Do you think it is fair for urine tests to be compulsory for those receiving opiate-based medication?