Painkiller crisis: Patients needlessly living and dying in pain

Andy Miller

Patients in hospices and nursing homes are suffering needlessly because they cannot get pain medicines, medical care professionals say. The issue: A combination of regulatory changes, manufacturing snags and physicians' reluctance to prescribe the drugs in light of a growing number of abuses of opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Shane Craycraft, administrator at a Middleton, Ohio, nursing home, says residents there sometimes wait two or three days before receiving much needed pain-relief medication. "There's too long of a delay,'' he says. "It's significantly affecting pain management.''

Greensboro, N.C., hospice nurse Leslie Millikin also sees an access problem. This year, she says, the supply of liquid morphine, a crucial pain medicine, has been extremely limited."If [patients] can't swallow, they need this [medication]," says Millikin.