Dr. John Prunskis is featured in this July 16th Daily Herald article for his work on the pain task force in Washington, D.C.:
“From Day 1 our whole philosophy of care was to diagnose the source of a patient’s pain and fix it, not mask it with painkillers,” [Prunskis] said. “Now the popular view, of course, is what we’ve been saying all along.”
But in the 1990s, doctors were told to view pain a the “fifth vital sign” and to treat it accordingly. Prunskis said Medicare and Medicaid began to question patients about the level of discomfort they experienced during care and penalize hospitals financially if respondents reported pain.
This all led, he said, to overprescribing of opioid pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin or Dilaudid, in some cases to people whose pain symptoms could have been addressed through other means. Overprescribing, in turn, put more people at risk for dependence or addiction, especially if they began to misuse their prescriptions, were not properly weaned off the drugs or turned to the black market for a cheaper alternative and found heroin.
Full article found here.