Chronic pain sufferers applaud changes to opioid limits law

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — People taking opioid painkillers for chronic pain are breathing a little easier. A new state law that went into effect Friday is clearing up confusion about how much a patient can legally take.

The law used to require people taking opioids to taper down their daily doses to no more than 100 morphine milligram equivalents, with exceptions only for those under hospice or palliative care in connection with a serious illness.

Doctors knew they could prescribe more for patients treated for cancer or hospice care, but many didn’t think they could go over that limit for patients with chronic pain. This new law makes it clear that people with chronic pain can be exempt.

Brian Rocket, a midcoast lobster wholesaler was one of those patients who was told by his doctor several months ago that he had to taper down his opioid dose to meet a new state law. He suffers from chronic pain from prior injuries and was worried he wouldn’t be able to run his business.

With the new law in effect, he says his doctor’s now confident that Brian is exempt from that 100-milligram limit and can accept a higher dose.

“I’ve certainly been reclassified under the palliative care back to where I was on medicine and I can function,” he said. “I can live to fight another day.”

Eric Wass, a roofing contractor, who for 20 years has been taking opioids to manage chronic pain, was also forced to taper down and is also now allowed a higher dose. He said it’s made all the difference.

“I can work all day and I have a vegetable garden over there now,” he said, “so it’s giving me my life back because it was being taken away from me.”

Both men went so far as to hire a lawyer to sue the state and then testified at public hearings about the need to change the law.

Lawmakers heard those pleas and passed a bill the governor signed — offering relief for those who found themselves dependent on painkillers after having them legally prescribed by their doctors.

“It’s not much fun,” Wass said. “I’m not proud of it. I don’t like it, but I don’t have much choice.”

Maine DHHS expressed concerns about adding too many exemptions to the law, saying that excessive overprescribing of opioid painkillers is what led to this epidemic that Maine and the nation are now facing.

24 Responses

  1. When you are in pain daily and taking pain meds to function that is not addiction!! End of story. It is a fact of life for many, and a lot better than leaving people in so much pain they can neither function or want to continue living a life that is torture day in and day out! The reason I know this; I am one of the people who lives (not really, but my heart still beats) daily in so much pain it’s unbearable. I have nightmares of being tortured, I wake up screaming. This is not life or living, I can no longer get out of my apartment even; I cannot get up and down the stairs. No one to help speak for me, my husband doesn’t know what or where to turn. Doctors haven’t been helpful, and the one that wanted to help was leaving. So, nothing changes except I get worse and the pain increases. Living in Northern Main was a blessing now it’s become a curse!

  2. Amen…..I CUT MY OWN PAIN MEDS BACK… I got better after RSD went untreated for 4 years and to reset my brain it took a lot. I cut back myself 2 times and was doing great on a mantenaince dose. Then my doctor retired and it took 6 months to get back in to see another pain specialist. Now, they r all so afraid that I figured out after 2 months of pain and nausea that the new non Tylenol med wasn’t 10mg. of the narcotics but aspirin! He knows I can’t take NSAIDS….. and we are all so afraid to say anything to our docs that I didn’t mention the new nausea. I will this month.
    We are BAD PEOPLE for being in an accident and not recovering as most do. I see why suicide rate has gone up…….

  3. It’s not just doctors, and pharmacies we have to worry about. The largest medical insurer in Michigan is Priority Health. They are unfortunately MY insurer. They have instituted wildly restrictive policies on opioids. Their new policies state that opioids are limited to 15 days with a maximum of 2 prescriptions in 3 months. To get an exception to that rule, all opioid patients MUST
    1. Have tried a non-drug pain relief program in the past 18 months (physical therapy, etc.) But, of course, PT, etc. is only paid for if it will HELP your condition. And you have co-pays for each PT appointment.
    2. Have attempted a taper-down program (even though I’m the one that asked for patches, because I didn’t like feeling high when I first took oxy, then the roller coaster pain return before my next pills.)
    3. Be taking non-opioid pain medications (oh, because it makes sense to just add more meds??)
    4. Have to be educated on, and have a current prescription FILLED for Narcan (because they EXPECT you to overdose???)
    5. Random on-demand urine testing on a MONTHLY basis (never mind that I can rarely drive anymore, my doctor is over an hour away, and my husband works in the OPPOSITE direction over an hour away.)
    6. Prescriptions are only filled for FIFTEEN days now, PERIOD. (Do they still give you 30 days worth for one co-pay? Of course not! So, my cost immediately went up $40 per month, besides the rest of the nonsense like PT co-pays, etc.)

    This is besides the normal hoops that every patient has to go through: a pain contract, assessment at every appointment, etc. etc. They claim that everyone was mailed notice of the new rules in July. But, when suddenly I couldn’t get my meds filled in October, there were over 2000 other patients in the FIRST WEEK that also mysteriously didn’t get the notification….. and only THREE people working in the department to get the prior authorizations processed. (My doctor got a notice, only about the prior auth, but didn’t think it applied to me because he had already DONE one for the meds.) We were already under a 3 day “window” for getting opioids filled. It took TWELVE DAYS to get my medication “authorized” through the INSURANCE COMPANY — and then it’s only for 6 months, unless I jump through the other hoops listed above. And my script was denied the first day of the change, my doctor had marked it urgent, and had the prior auth into Priority Health within hours of me notifying him. That means I was without medication for NINE DAYS….even though there is extreme documented proof (which the insurance company acknowledges) that I have a chronic condition that causes extreme uncontrolled pain!! How in the world is it legal to torture someone like that???

    • Conette, please contact me at the Chronic Pain Advocacy Alliance or just friend me on FB. I would like you to invite you to join activism efforts at the state level to curb this madness. Look for the Michigan Pain Advocacy Group and add yourself there. It is a closed group. Tell them you’ve already been vetted by Kelly Merrill and you will be invited in. There are some draft guidelines in MN right now with an opportunity for public comment…there are only about 20 days left. Please PM me once you’ve gotten connected and I’ll lead you from there about the guidelines and further advocacy efforts. I look forward to hearing from you.

    • That is a lot of hoops. One possibility I know some other people who have done because of new limits placed by their insurance company is to ask their doctor to switch them to a cheaper alternative and to just pay for it. My aunt’s insurance company as of March 1st put a 2 pill a day limit on her pain medication, 3 with prior authorization. She was being prescribed 10 a day and has for years. She is prescribed methadone because when she first started taking it she didn’t have insurance and it is very cheap. Starting this month she is paying out of pocket for the entire script. With goodrx it cost her lesd than 40 for the month. I have read of other people who are prescribed it because they dont have insurance and it is cheap. Methadone prescribed for pain comes in different doses and in pill form instead of high liquid doses like it dose for heroin addicts. Your insurance company has no say in what you pay for yourself.

      • One of the basics of the practice of medicine is the starting, changing, stopping a pt’s therapy.. the insurance company does not have a license to practice medicine.. but their medical director does .. and under the controlled substance act it is illegal for a prescription to prescribe controlled meds to/for a pt that they have not done a in person physical exam.. is their medical director licensed to practice medicine in the state that your aunt lives in.. if not .. another illegal activity.. file complaints with insurance.. if Medicare/Medicaid 800-MEDICARE… file with state insurance commissioner… file complaints with the medical licensing board in the state he/she is licensed in and the state that your aunt lives in..

      • paying cash for controlled med and having insurance is considered a RED FLAG by the DEA… and that red flag will come down on the prescriber and pharmacy.. maybe the pt… but .. the insurance company will not be in the cross hairs. I doubt that the DEA will take into consideration that the insurance did pay for it… in the DEA WORLD there are no mitigating circumstances.

  4. I wish all states did this, sadly ever though I’m excempt under our state law doctors still refuse to increase ball to a level that works

  5. In NC, I’m now being treated at Duke & they’ve never once prescribed opiods, & I’m on max dose of Lyrica, plus lexapro, an anxiety med & muscle relaxers for Chronic Inflammatory Demylineating Polyneuropathy, Erythromelalgia, + fibromyalgia. I’ve had a spinal nerve stimulator surgically implanted in my spine for lower extremity pain, but it’s often overwhelming! They had me do 6 mos of biofeedback, which helped ME deal w/the pain, but THEY are not managing it at all! Now I have some hypertrophic back issue – I dunno…that’s been a huge issue lately, & they’re offering facet block shots for that. Meanwhile, my extremities are in constant pain! Opiod meds cure this pain- am so confused by their lack of empathy!

  6. Ppl who still work with opiates is more than I expect. I only wish to be able to function in my apt. Not to be forced to a bed bound life of no sleep !!! To work again is out of the question. I just want to have daily normal thought & to get to bathroom without paying for that basic need without more severe chronic pain. To many ppl think chronic pain can be fixed by otc pain pills. Education is desparatly need in America !

  7. Too bad we don’t all have money for attorneys. I think those who are denied treatment should have the right to sue for pain and suffering and for neglect- from lack of medical care. Right now there is only one side to the story and only one side is represented. The other side needs to be represented, Maybe with a class action suit. Idk. There has to be balance.

  8. Go to this link, type your zip code under find your Representative. It will give you your local state legislator to call, and arrange a meeting with. Talk to them about how the Government (DEA, CDC, FDA, etc…) is scaring pain doctor’s, and although Politicians like Kasich, or Chris Christie say chronic pain patients aren’t affected by acute pain med rules, and how they are only “guidelines” by CDC, doctor’s treat them like law. Explain suicides, suffering, and how doctors (because of agencies making them scared), are cutting off chronic pain patients completely, or greatly reducing patients opioid pain meds, or meds like Valium for fear of losing their licenses. We need to tell them Politicians will lose 100 million chronic pain patient’s votes, and they are allowing the Government to cause inhumane actions by doctors. Explain your stories to these legislators. I also started a Facebook page called: NO VOTES 4 POLITICIANS WHO MAKE CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS SUFFER!! PLEASE MAKE IT GROW SO POLITICIANS SEE IT!! 😉

  9. To who ever it concerns thank you so much. please feel free to publicly post and use this my story and grief of this horrible malady and the the Hell the now uninformed Public and some of the Media are putting us legitimate Chronic Pain Sufferers through! It is no more than local emotional Abuse ( and border line Domestic Emotional Terrorism )!on a scale with only Biblical proportions!To the Editor and Associates I have taken this opportunity to share my heartbreaking story in hopes these witch hunting Opiate ill informed skeptics will read and understand that we as Millions Of Legitimate Chronic Pain Sufferers would have no life without Medically prescribed Opiates by a physicians care and strictly monitored monthly urine and blood test. Please remember that An Opinion Before A Thorough Investigation Is The Epitome Of Ignorance! And that a little more compassion from the Medical Field and its representatives could have saved my beautiful Stepdaughters life. Let me say this! A person who has a addictive personality will abuse anything that helps them feel better. I have taken Oxycontin for 12 years , I have had 20 major surgery’s in 9 years. I have so much physical pain I can not even get out of bed with out pain meds and when I run out I run out and just lay in bed praying the Lord relieve me of this horrible condition and I pray God you pain med skeptics never go through what I go through everyday of my life when the only thing you have to do is threaten what help I get, Shame on them! There will always be drug abuse and as the so called war on drugs has failed all this will! All you do is stoke and aid the drug pushers business to knew heights in the Black Market of Heroin while trying to deprive folks as me to this horrible movement! My Stepdaughter committed suicide 4 years ago because of being treated like a drug addict by her family and doctors when all along she suffered from Lupus and Fibromyalgia which I believe was brought on by a deadly car crash at 18 , she told me between that which I was being put through and what they were putting her through she was not going to be able to live her life in such a hell brought on by people like the Biased Uniformed Skeptics that are on a witch hunt to out law Opiates and pain meds that give us some sort of a life . As a retired Police officer and worked indirectly close to the DEA, you people do not have a clue how thrilled you are making the illegal opiate trade and think of my Late Stepdaughter as you continue on with this 2017 Version of the ( 1940s Propaganda Film named REEFER MADNESS )movement to outlaw opiates! Just like the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook if there would have just been gun laws , my God they were Gun Laws , the guns that murdered all those 20 children were all registered and owned by a school teacher! You fight Drug Addiction in Elementary education by teaching all children the dangers of Booze and Tobacco which if these witch hunters want for us to know the real truth but they do not. I miss my Stepdaughter so much and some of us will continue on the fight to protect our right to feel better and function without fear of these witch hunters trying to convince us to commit suicide . And they are trying to do exactly THAT and are now being successful in this under the table practice of Human Genocide!
    The under line real truth it seems THESE witch hunters would rather us Chronic Pain sufferers commit suicide are and DRINK all the BOOZE we can drink! The Federals legalized it ( ALCOHOL) knowing its a more deadly drug than Strychnine. And just because the DEA has miserably failed with their witch hunt type movement on drugs why do they continuous fully deprive us sick people of our Constitutional Rights to be Happy in that pursuit of with Professional Physicians to take meds that give us relief of this horrible malady of Chronic Pain ! May God have mercy on their miserable souls they that seek to destroy us Chronic Pain Sufferers only and little hope of temporary relief of this horrible sickness.

    • I’m so sorry you lost your Beautiful step daughter, so many lives lost to this intentional attack on the very ones who should never be targeted. The government lost control of the illegal drugs being brought into this country, so we became collateral damage. Shame on them all. You and your family are in my prayers God be with us all

  10. I would honestly like to see these exemptions made here. The veterans and the elderly in particular are suffering a lot here.

  11. Steve, do you happen to be connected in any way to the patients mentioned in the article? I’d heard about their case last year and wanted to merge patient advocacy forces here in Maine. Their story is now recognizable and identifiable with people…and “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” The state has a very interesting political climate that is watched by many. Neither men appear to be on Facebook and I long ago contacted their attorney to pass along my interest in their case but never heard back. I need to speak to them about staging a protest on Dec. 2. We need to strike while the iron is hot.

  12. from barb ariens- Oh Heaven forbid they might make more people feel better and able to have a normal life…their stats and paper work is way more important

  13. EXCELLENT,, news,,now we just have get all 50 states as the same as Maine,,Exempting all Chronic Pain people..This will save sooo many lifes,,U watch,,Maine will have thee lowest suicide rate,,ill bet 1 million on it,,Great work to all who help make that happen in maine,,jmo,maryw

  14. Hopefully more states will see this and follow along ! One can only hope !

  15. Too bad I’m stuck in TN where I get no pain meds at all because I see a psychiatrist and take lexapro and Xanax. I hate this country.

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