(WSVN) – It’s a terrible way to live. Horrible pain that never stops. Pain medications help, but imagine being told the pain pills that keep you going will be cut off. Thousands of Americans are now facing that, and it’s why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Crooked doctors and bogus pain clinics helped created the pill mills that sold 76 billion pain pills to drug dealers and drug addicts.
When the Drug Enforcement Administration finally started shutting them down, the people like Steve Levin were left — real victims living with unbearable pain.
Steve Levin, needs pain medication: “I was rear-ended backing out of a parking space.”
After that car accident, Steve’s body was wrecked.
Steve Levin: “Shooting pain in your feet. Inability to bend, lift, squat.”
The solution for Steve? His doctor prescribed a strong pain reliever: Oxycontin.
Steve Levin: “Not over-prescribe or under-prescribe, but enough to keep me sane, is what I call it, and it worked very well.”
But when the DEA started cracking down on illegal pill mills, pharmacies were so frightened, they would not fill legitimate prescriptions for needy pain victims like Steve, leaving him facing horrible pain.
Steve Levin: “Like God has his hands on my spine and was giving it an Indian burn like this. I knew I couldn’t live that way.”
And he didn’t have to live without the pain medication. The maker of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, started a program working with legitimate patients and their doctors, giving Steve two pain pills a day.
Steve Levin: “It was more than a life-saver. It just totally helped me like you wouldn’t believe — financially, physically, psychologically.”
For seven years, the pills helped Steve cope with his pain. And then…
Steve Levin: “And then I get the letter, ‘Sorry. We’re stopping our program in two months.’”
At the end of August, Purdue will stop providing free pain medication for patients like Steve.
Steve Levin: “It’s just ridiculous. Anybody knows that that’s ridiculous. You just can’t stop that sudden. It’s just not in the cards.”
Steve says he can’t afford insurance, was turned down for disability and can’t get Medicare.
Steve Levin: “I have to have something.”
And the thought of living without his pain medication scares the hell out of him.
Steve Levin: “I’m sorry.” *breaks down crying*
Well, Howard, Steve is not alone. Are people like him going to have to live a tortured life without pain medication?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “While the government had good intentions in trying to curb opioid abuse, they have now gone too far and left legitimate patients unable to get a prescription, get it filled or pay for it, but there are some options, and one is to try different medications, generic medications and cheaper medications. It’s difficult, but it’s possible.”
Steve has tried. He wanted to apply to other drug makers who offer free medications, but none are accepting new patients.
He tried medical marijuana. It didn’t work.
He’s still searching.
Steve Levin: “Maybe non-medicinal alternatives that I don’t know about?”
Steve and his doctor now plan to try to lower the dosage of his last few Oxycontin pills to wean him off them. Then, find a cheaper pill to try to help with his pain. Right now, it’s Steve’s only hope.
Steve Levin: “Basically the medicine will provide some relief, not nearly as much, and it will cost me money, but it’s like the old expression, ‘It’s better than nothing.’”
When we help people, I always try to imagine being in their shoes. What would I do? In Steve’s case, it’s hard. Turned down for disability after fighting for six years, in horrible pain that can be lessened by pills he can’t afford. I can’t imagine what he is going through.
If you or someone you know has faced what Steve and others are facing, and you have a solution, please let us know.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org
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