New Ala. drug restrictions force some patients to find new doctors

LEEDS, Ala. (WIAT) – Sherry Whisenhunt suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.

“I have difficulty walking. I walk with a cane,” Whisenhunt said. “Sometimes I use a scooter when I go to the malls.” The worst part about Whisenhunt’s condition: the pain that comes at night.

Sherry Whisenhunt “It’s nerve pain in my legs and feet…And it just starts getting worse.” - Sherry Whisenhunt

She’s been able to manage her pain for the last several years by taking Hydrocodone once per night. Thursday night, she’ll take her very last pill. Her doctor recently stopped writing prescriptions for pain pills.

“She said I would have to start going to a pain management clinic,” Whisenhunt said. “Well, that’s another trip – I don’t drive – it’s also another doctor.”

The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and Medical Licensure Commission of Alabama sent letters in January 2014 to physicians who write the most prescriptions for controlled substances. These doctors have a choice: write fewer prescriptions for controlled substances or become a licensed pain specialist.

Dr. Amy Bentley Illescas explains:

Dr. Amy Bentley Illescas “It’s a burden that lots of primary care doctors are really not going to be able to tolerate as you’re trying to see more patients,” Bentley said, “And implement all these new healthcare guidelines that have been passed and are continuing to be passed.”

Patients like Sherry are being referred to pain clinics, which are struggling to keep up with the demand. “It took me a long time to even get them, and finally I got the answering machine,” Whisenhunt said. “And they would only let me leave a message and told me not to call back.”

Whisenhunt made that call on Monday. By Thursday, she had not heard back. “I guess I’ll just have to take Tylenol and hurt,” Whisenhunt said. Friday, she’ll be forced to suffer through her pain.

Learn more about the new restrictions here:  new restrictions on pain medications.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-CBS42

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