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Media’s attack on prescription pain meds hurting cancer patients

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Media’s attack on prescription pain meds hurting cancer patients

Earlier this week I spoke to a group of 50 nurses near my home here in Florida.

One of the other speakers–oncology nurse Elizabeth Finley with Moffitt Cancer Center–reminded the audience several times how important it is to keep patients moving.

Elizabeth stressed the importance of making sure patients take their pain meds regularly.  Why?  Because if they are in pain, they are less likely to stay active.

Elizabeth surprised me as she pointed-out how recent media reports condemning the use of oxycodone was negatively affecting patients.

According to Elizabeth, patients are relying on over-the-counter pain medications instead of taking more effective prescription pain killers.

She emphasized that this is an unwise and dangerous substitution.  “Oxycodone is safer than taking over the counter medications for most patients.” She added.

This philosophy jives with what I had been hearing from my doctors and nurses over the years.  In my case, they felt that I was taking too much Tylenol.  “Use more oxycodone instead!” I was told.

The concern:  The risk of liver damage taking too much acetaminophen could cause.

Elizabeth pointed-out a different risk that her patients face when they substitute non-prescription pain relievers for their oxycodone.

She used ibuprofen as a specific example.  Found in Advil, Motrin, Nuprin and Medipren, ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.

NSAIDs reduce the ability of blood to clot.  So along with aspirin, the drug should be avoided by patients taking blood thinners–which is common among myeloma patients that have previously experienced blood clots in their legs and/or lungs–often as an unwanted side-effect from taking Revlimid.

And the risks of taking too much ibuprofen can be just as dangerous as taking too much Tylenol for your liver.

Are there risks to using oxycodone on an ongoing basis?  Of course.  Drug dependency is always a concern.  But like Rick, my favorite physician’s assistant at Moffitt stressed, “You can’t become addicted to oxycodone, but you can become dependent.”  Rick stood-up, smiled and said, “SO WHAT! If it helps you live a better life with less pain, take it!”

He didn’t need to continue, but I could read between the lines.  I’m a terminal cancer patient.  Who cares if I were to become dependent on painkillers?

“Don’t take so much Tylenol!”  He continued.  “Use oxycodone instead.”

Works for me!  And that’s the point:  IT DOES WORK FOR ME!

Oxycodone minimizes the bone and muscle pain I feel from bone damage I suffered years ago, before we got my multiple myeloma under control.

But just as importantly, it helps reduce the pain and tingling from the worsening peripheral neuropathy I feel in my hands and feet.

For me, oxycodone is a wonder drug!  I know it isn’t every patient’s drug of choice–and it doesn’t work for all.  But I can’t imagine living without it at this point.

Many myeloma patients are/were fortunate to not need to take pain killers on a regular basis–no bone damage is involved. But a lot of us need them just to get up, get out and get going!

So be careful about what and how much pain medication you take.  Work closely with your doctor to find what works best for you–and then take it!

Suffering in silence if you don’t have to is no way to live!  Take your pain meds so you can keep moving–and living!

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat