An Open Letter to Dr. Andrew Kolodny

An Open Letter to Dr. Andrew Kolodny

Update 6/27/18: I am overwhelmed by the positive responses I have received for this letter. I would ask that readers also take a look at all the articles and references cited in this piece, and share those as well. Those references go into much, much more detail and research than I have had space or time for here. Thank you all so much for reading and sharing, I believe we will make a difference and win this fight for our lives! #wearehere

See also: A Rock and a Hard Place, The Truth About the Opioid Crisis, and Strangulation on Medicine

Dear Dr. Kolodny,

I am one of millions of chronic pain patients in the United States who has been continually and increasingly oppressed over the past few years by progressively invasive and prohibitive laws at the state and federal levels concerning the delicate relationship between doctors and patients, particularly when it comes to a certain class of drugs, i.e. opiates.

Ever since my very real, physical condition began about 4 years ago, my family and I have been disoriented again and again by a lack of what might be termed, “help,” from doctors. We have discovered a very confused medical community, corruption, and a growing collection of laws being passed so fast and furiously hardly anyone seems to know just what is going on.

This has resulted in doctors leaving my city, doctors outright refusing to accept chronic pain patients (or, if they do accept these patients, refusing to treat them with medications that suit the patient best) or new patients, and unprecedented referrals to pain management clinics and psychiatrists. I have a detailed post planned addressing the pain management clinics, but the psychiatrist referrals were more baffling to me. My local psychiatrists even refused me as a patient about a year ago because, “we don’t see chronic pain patients.” That made sense to me as I don’t suffer from mental illness, still my providers insisted I must be mistaken.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I began researching you and your career last night out of curiosity. I wanted to answer the question, “Who is this Dr. A. Kolodny, that everyone from journalists to policy makers and bloggers keep quoting as an “expert on opiates”?” And I found out. You, sir, are a psychiatrist and board-certified addiction specialist-turned policy maker (1) and buprenorphine (Suboxone) “evangelist” (2).

Your first private clinic was a Suboxone clinic in New York City, established sometime around 2003-2005, and it appears you (and/or other health officials) felt stymied by the federal limit at the time of just 30 patients for such clinics (put in place to stem corruption), because said health officials have been in the background, quietly working away at this very limit which was amended in 2006 (called DATA), to allow 100* patients after 1 year, and is now up in the House for being overturned altogether, along with expanding legal prescribers to nurses and other non-doctor medical staff. And look what has happened as a result:

Health officials, concerned about restricted access, lobbied alongside Reckitt Benckiser for the patient cap to be raised. “Why should we bind a healer’s hands from helping as many as he or she could?” Senator Hatch said, getting an amendment passed in 2006 that allowed doctors, on request, to go from 30 to 100 patients after a year.

The stage was set for more patients, prescriptions and problems. “It’s when the limit was raised from 30 that doctors started to get commercial about it,” said Dr. Art Van Zee, whose buprenorphine program at a federally funded community health center in rural Virginia is surrounded by for-profit clinics where doctors charge $100 for weekly visits, pulling in, he estimated, about $500,000 a year.

“They are not savvy about addiction medicine, don’t follow patients very closely, don’t do urine testing and overprescribe,” he said. “That’s how buprenorphine became a street drug in our area.” (4)

“In the early days of Suboxone, with Reckitt Benckiser barely marketing its own drug, Dr. Kolodny, then a New York City health official, crisscrossed the city with colleagues to spread the word about the new medication, entice public hospitals to try it with $10,000 rewards and urge doctors to get certified.” (4)

Since at least 2005, you have been marketing buprenorphine as if you had a personal stake in the drug, to government institutions and agencies including prisons, public hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities (2). In the fall of 2013, you were appointed Chief Medical Officer (5), of the largest chain of non-profit detox/rehab facilities in the USA (cited for questionable practices and abuse from at least 2012-2015) (6) called Phoenix House, which received $131 million in June 2013 (7), championing the use of MAT, or “Medication Assisted Treatment”. I wonder which drug Phoenix House used?

Hang ‘Em High?

salem witch hanging.PNG
An innocent “witch” (woman) is hanged at the Salem Witch Trials, much like other innocent pain patients are persecuted.

Since you often cite the United States vs. Purdue Pharma (2007) settlement in your interviews and writings, perhaps you saw an opportunity to expand the use of buprenorphine by targeting and demeaning chronic pain patients as mere “addicts”.
It was odd to me in researching that incident, in the official “Purdue Guilty Plea” document (8), the very words they were condemned for, claiming OxyContin to be “less addictive” and “less subject to abuse and diversion” (8), appear to be the exact words you use time and again when describing the benefits of buprenorphine (2).

Kolodny reminds his colleagues of the drug’s advantages. He stresses that bupe in the form of Suboxone is safe and almost impossible to abuse, a huge selling point at many of the clinics they will visit. Suboxone has a second active ingredient in the mix, he explains, an anti-overdose drug called naloxone.

It does nothing if you take bupe as directed. But if you sniff bupe or inject it or otherwise try to pack enough into your bloodstream to get high, the naloxone acts like a chemical booby trap, erasing the effects of any opiate, bupe included, and bringing on sweaty, nauseating withdrawal. “That’s the last time you’ll do it,” Kolodny says dryly.

In 2016, your organization, PROP (Physicians for Responsible Opiot Prescribing), got the ear of the CDC and helped to write the now-infamous, misinformed, and rushed guidelines for prescribing opiates. While these guidelines were fairly general in nature, they have been used as a springboard for countless pieces of state legislation and DEA investigations, which has, in turn, led to the above-mentioned abuse and abandonment of chronic pain patients and doctors, as well as opiate shortages in hospitals and ERs (The DEA, in an attempt to prevent diversion of opiates to the black market, has cut production by an incredible 45% in the past 2 years). I imagine that suits you just fine, since you have publicly stated you believe opiates should be discontinued for all but the dying and post-major surgery “for a few days” (, and that “more treatment” is needed (, i.e. MAT/Suboxone clinics like Phoenix House.

'The National Gesture' 1926
“The National Gesture” 1926

You have hailed local municipalities and states in their further pursuit of legal action against American Big Pharma, the companies who make such things as Vicodin and Percocet, but not Suboxone/buprenorphine (which is also an opiate), which is made by an overseas company, Reckitt Benckiser, or Naloxone (Narcan), which is produced in a nasal spray exclusively by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals (10), a relatively new company founded in California in 1996 (11),  whose stock (and Narcan prices) has been rising quite a bit, lately (12, 13). Are you truly against the use of opioids, or just the ones that help pain?

The Opioid Epidemic!

McCarthyism Propaganda

Although your policies, based on inaccurate data (14-15) (15), and, have been wildly ineffective at stopping heroin/fentanyl overdoses; although you are not a pharmacologist, opiate researcher, pain doctor, pain patient, surgeon, or even general practitioner; although you ran a private clinic for a short time in 2005 (as far as I’ve been able to learn) that dispensed buprenorphine/Suboxone, you have, for the majority of your career as far as I can tell, been a policy-maker and not directly involved with addiction patients or chronic pain patients whom you recently claimed were simply addicts who needed compassion and “treatment” (and, presumably, Suboxone).

“Many Americans are truly convinced that opioids are helping them. They can’t get out of the bed without them.”

“Policy makers were told by industry-funded pain organizations not to penalize pain patients because of drug abusers. We realized that this wasn’t true. We don’t have these two distinct groups, one for pain patients and the other for drug abusers.” (15a)

If You’re Not For Us, You’re Against Us

sen. joe mccarthy demonstrates the communist threat
Senator Joe McCarthy Demonstrates the Communist Threat in America

You are cited and quoted in an impressive number of articles and interviews as a compassionate person who wants to see people and their families heal from the devastation of addiction, which is why it surprised me to find quotes from you that didn’t seem, well, “nice.”

It is the FDA’s role to vigilantly regulate the approval, labeling, and promotion of  pharmaceutical products, not that of counties or municipalities. County and municipal lawyers are inadequately qualified to make or enforce federal drug policy, and these lawsuits serve as a vehicle for local governments to seek revenue  through ill-informed measures under the guise of drug abuse prevention. In a May 30,2014, interview with   FDA Week, a CLAAD spokesman voiced these positions and expressed concern that these lawsuits are part of “a trend that will distract us from the real meaningful approaches to reducing prescription drug abuse.”

After reading the interview, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP)and Chief Medical Officer of Phoenix House,  contacted CLAAD via telephone to condemn its comments. During this conversation, Kolodny threatened that the Internal Revenue Service would revoke CLAAD’s tax-exempt status when alerted to the comments, which he believes conflict with CLAAD’s charitable mission.  CLAAD takes these false allegations and threats very seriously, and  responded in a letter which is publicly available for view on our website.

Critics who categorically dispute the motives of organizations like CLAAD and its diverse coalition members are, at best, narrowly focused. Their zealotry reveals their otherwise undisclosed health insurance industry bias.  At worst, they endanger the lives of people who live with pain and other conditions that can require controlled substances by stifling access to quality care. (16)

Anyone who questions your authority, expertise, policies, or the efficacy of your pet drug, buprenorphine, is loudly dismissed by you as uneducated (17), addicted (15a), or corrupt (15a, 18), regardless of how closely they actually work with addicts and pain patients (17).

But Dr. Kolodny, I have nothing left to lose — your policies and attitudes have directly impacted my health, my freedom, my ability to be a parent, my work, my hobbies, my family, my finances, my friends, and my personhood. I have no problem announcing to the public, as loudly as I can, “The Emperor is not wearing any clothes!”

emporer has no clothes




















Further Resources

10 Responses

  1. In my humble opinion, Killer Kolodny is DIRECTLY responsible for THOUSANDS, not hundreds, but THOUSANDS of suicides. An average of 22 Veterans who gave their all for this country commit suicide every DAY, because thanks to Killer Kolodny, the VA will no longer prescribe opiates for veterans! Is THAT how we repay them for our freedoms and protecting us every day? He should be charged with MURDER!

    • Andy, the DEA & CDC turned me from curable to terminal in 18 months of hell and pain. Cost me my job everything. The only way these ppl learn is by having to pay $$$ to victims. The list of killers and sadist runs from Senate & Congress on down. Gillibrand & Amy K knew this was happening. They pissed on the Constitution, HIPPA, and our human rights. They need to pay, lose their jobs and go to jail. They will never be able to get rid of the blood on their hands.

  2. Bravo, the prohibition has taken all that mattered to me as well. This person is also head of opiate policy research at Brandeis University and they are receiving huge amounts of govt grants for developing a nationwide drug monitoring database (rather than just state databases), he is IMO a social policy engineer who is willfully negligent and because he displays the characteristics of a narcissistic sociopath really couldn’t care less about the widespread damage he’s doing to society as a whole. He is associated with Workers Compensation through close family members and is actively pushing for policies to deny claims and needed care to save money and promote profits. He has fraudulently allowed himself to be promoted by media as an expert in all things to do with pain care of which to anyone really involved in this specialized field it is glaringly obvious he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground…very unethical and morally reprehensible. He is a former substance abuser himself, alcohol. He enjoys violating other people’s civil and God given rights to promote his antiopioid agenda. His own former colleagues have nothing positive to say about him and much negative. Well I’m sure I can add more but you get the picture, he is a hideous excuse for a human being.

  3. maybe he needs a good solid flame burn and then get his skin grafts w/o even a shot of lidocaine.Jesus,in His Great Wisdom and Mercy,created millions of medicines He knew we would need.Cocaine is very dangerous used incorrectly,but w/o it,we’d still be taking a shot of whiskey for a root canal.Imagine that!delightful….The poppy flower was created for the miracle sap it produces for the evil of end stage cancer that satan brought.Heck,we make syrup from maples!People even thought at one time,that tomatoes were poisonous.God,pls.have mercy on those who make us lie awake at nite crying from pain.And pls.stop the madness that grips this century.I’d be SOOOOO happy if you took me home with You tonite!Amen

  4. Great great

  5. Print this out and spread it! Well said and so true it’s sick!

  6. Bravo! This is on point, factually. Kolodny is not even remotely concerned with the indisputably detrimental effects of his actions and I believe he does belong in the courtroom. Sitting in a chair as the accused and being made to answer for the deaths of the pain patients that he caused through his own reckless, inhumane and unacceptable actions. His deeply flawed “expertise” and distorted personal views on addiction and the treatment of pain in those with intractable chronic pain has cost lives in ever growing numbers, while extremely damaging others, and continues to severely effect doctor-patient relationships. At very least, if this disgusting charade ended now, I’d guess it would take decades to fully repair the latter. Personally, I’d love to see him brought up on charges for all of this. I know that is highly unlikely to ever happen, but I wholeheartedly believe that it should. The opinions that he passes off as facts are a large part of the driving force behind providers being charged and losing their licenses. Providers that genuinely care and that have the compassion and determination to help patients with chronic pain. If that means providing medications to physically comfort a patient with chronic pain, that should be between doctor and patient. Kolodny’s narcissistic ramblings have quite literally caused the public, lawmakers and in general those that know nothing about pain, medications to treat pain and those that have pain, to have extreme misgivings about these topics. I believe he should have to answer for that because of the consequences of doing so. Just my 2¢ on Kolodny.

    • jmo,,,me too,,I would love to see him in a 4 by 4 cell,,convicted of torture,,which is life in prison,,and ALL HIS ASSETS TAKEN,, just like he did to all of us,our doctors,,,and all those assets go to pain patient who lost everything,,w/his torture/genocidal policy,propaganda and bigotry,,Agree,,,4 by 4 prison cell would be 1/2 the justice for me,,,can’t wroite thee other half on the net,,,maryw



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