Review Finds Harmful Prescription Drug Policies At Tomah VA
A preliminary review from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) examining drug practices at the Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin revealed startling findings.
More reviews are on their way to get to the bottom of allegations that Tomah is a ‘candy land’ in terms of how willing it is to dole out drugs to veterans. In looking at the treatment of just 18 patients, in 6 cases, patient harm resulted from overuse of drugs, AP reports. Prescription practices remained constant for those 6 cases, as well as 9 other patients who exhibited “aberrant behavior.”
“They would want you to take more drugs instead of finding something that would work. They would just give you something to basically say, ‘shut up,’” Jason Bishop, former patient at Tomah, told Fox News.
“They’re breeding drug addicts,” Bishop added.
The total rate for prescription handouts in Tomah is actually lower than in other VA medical centers — 11.5 percent, compared with an average of 14.6 percent.
However, Tomah specializes in handing out 2.5 times the average rate of very high doses to patients. In addition, patients are twice as likely to get a dangerous combination of opioids with benzodiazepines. Veterans have placed the blame on chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan for over-the-top prescription policies.
“Clearly, particularly as it relates to the first crisis, there is eroded trust in the VA facility here in Tomah,” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said, according to AP. “I don’t expect anybody to give that trust back. I expect that we’re going to have to earn it back.”
Morale is down in Tomah. Some of the drugs are even making their way to the street for sale. Police officers have repeatedly nabbed drug users who still have the original pill bottles from the VA. Federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration are converging on the area to look more closely at the flow of opioids stemming from Tomah.
The impetus for the investigation came as a result of pressure from Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ron Kind, who demanded that the VA look into prescription practices in Tomah. This was all kicked off by the death of a 35-year-old marine, which was reportedly due to overprescription of opioids. Additionally, reports surfaced of veterans being kept in such a constant high that they would often drool and accidentally burn themselves with cigarettes. (RELATED: Congressmen Demand Investigation Into Out Of Control Opioids At VA Facility)
Later this month, the House Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Homeland and Government Affairs committees are set to hold hearings to discuss the findings of the report and interrogate the VA for answers.
“Unfortunately, the situation at the Tomah VAMC is a familiar one for VA involving skyrocketing opiate prescription rates, patient deaths, a secret inspector general report, executive bonuses and allegations of retaliatory behavior,” said House Veterans’ Affairs committee chairman Jeff Miller, according to The Hill.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald has stated publicly that he wants a full review of the situation unfolding at the Tomah VA Medical Center.
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