Need lawyer b/c refused medicines
September 24, 2019 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Is there a certain type of attorney who helps when you're being refused to be prescribed meds like benzodiazapines and Ambien? Doctors around here -- it's like they all got some memo saying never prescribe these things to anyone again unless they're frothing at the mouth. In a short amount of time I'm already tired of fighting this battle (and the prospects of continuing battle) and want some help with it. They know I'm not addicted -- I even withdrew from benzos completely at one time. What legal recourse is there for obtaining them again if I feel they are hepful?
posted by noelpratt2nd to Law & Government (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Broadly speaking to make a legal issue of it — at least a standard medical malpractice claim — you'd have to show that the doctor has a duty to treat you, that their refusal to prescribe these drugs specifically despite their potential for abuse fell below the standard of care, and that you were harmed by that dereliction and suffered damages.

I understand your frustration, I benefit from Ambien and dislike being treated with suspicion just for asking for it, but that doesn't mean you can use the law to overthrow a clinician's independent judgment in declining to treat you as you prefer if there's some reasonable basis for it, or that it would be sensible to do so on a cost/benefit basis even if there weren't (under this kind of circumstance).

Talk to a med mal lawyer in your jurisdiction for an actual opinion if you feel strongly enough about it, they're likely to say something along those lines.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:05 PM on September 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Bring a lawsuit against a doctor for not prescribing you benzos and you will be stamped a drug-seeker for life. Not sure that's what you want to do.
posted by praemunire at 9:14 PM on September 24, 2019 [35 favorites]

Do you have a therapist or case manager who could help advocate for you? That's more likely to be successful than finding an attorney who'd take this.

Though I have to say in the past decade I've seen attitudes about benzos change wildly. I used to have doctors give it out like candy, and now anywhere I go it's really difficult and I can only get a small supply when in extreme distress. It completely sucks, of course, just getting at that the problem is bigger than your region.
posted by mermaidcafe at 9:33 PM on September 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

There isn't any legal recourse to get the drugs. There might be a legal angle for your family if too-sudden benzo withdrawal had killed you, but that is no help to you. There are practical remedies but they are limited by your setting and your personal skills (such as: figure out whether they're saying No because of what's in your medical records vs. whatever information you are unwisely or angrily or inadvertently disclosing in new-patient visits, whether all the doctors who have said No to you are in the same system and can see each other's notes...etc.)

"Doctor shopping" is widely condemned because doctors hate to think of themselves as providing a service that is bought and paid for. They, of course, do. but they don't like it. so what you have to be, when you shop for a congenial or a careless or a negligent new doctor, is tactful. Do not tell lies, but do not try to show off how honest you are or how much of an addict you aren't. Do not broadcast that you believe other doctors have mistreated you or failed you. That is the worst thing you can ever possibly do except for saying "malpractice" out loud. maybe you haven't! but don't.

The best advice people typically give for your problem is to present the symptoms you have that the drug is useful for, and ask for ideas of what might help, rather than asking for a drug. let the doctor exercise their big brains and be the one to suggest it. This can't be forced and can rarely be engineered. It is not guaranteed to work.

doctors care more about not breaking whatever new prescribing guidelines are in place than they care about your wants or needs. this is not illegal; this is motivated by their fear of the law. that is why there isn't an easy way around it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:35 PM on September 24, 2019 [26 favorites]

I agree with the suggestion that you start seeing a therapist in order to build a history so that they can advocate for you with a primary care doctor or psychiatrist. Using a lawyer to address this is a giant red flag to healthcare providers. It won't work.
posted by quince at 12:34 AM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I could have written this same question a year ago. I went in to my doctor to get a refill for my usual benzo/ambien prescriptions and was given TWO of each pill, made to sign an opiate agreement with the doctor's office, and then told to see a psychiatrist to be given psych meds (the psychiatrist was super unhelpful and wanted to put me on lamictal which did not fit my profile at all). I had been on this medication regimen for ten years and was told to basically stop it in four days. Fuck that doctor, sincerely. I am so sorry, this is an awful feeling.

I spent a lot of money and had a really bad set of months until I got it more or less sorted out. Meanwhile, my partner who lives in a more enlightened (or less risk averse) part of the country has what we basically call the "klonopin fountain" available to him for basically no reason. Here is what I did.

1. Stockpiled and asked friends if they had any leftovers just to put my mind at ease. Realistically I didn't use as many of the pills as I just liked to feel I needed.
2. Talked to other people in my community who may have had similar psychological profiles about whether they had medical providers who were willing to prescribe benzos. I found that it was a really wide range, even in our small rural community. Some people did, some didn't. I wound up going back to my old doctor who still had some restrictions on what he could/could not prescribe (i.e no more free refills without a meds check) but otherwise let me do my own thing
3. Worked through my therapist at a place that mostly dealt with people with more serious mental health issues and saw their in-house psychiatrist (not the same guy as before) who was AOK fine with prescribing limited amounts of benzos, though it's expensive and I am still angry about having to do this. I brought in a two year prescription history to show how much of my meds I was using and my sleep/meds chart to show how often I used it. I may look into taking more regular anti-anxiety meds but the few I've tried so far haven't been helpful.
4. Started trying to work on other sleep med options like CBD, THC, benadryl and, some nights, drinking, and rotating them around.

The whole thing sucks, I won't lie. However I do not think it is a thing that enlisting a lawyer would be helpful for, for all the reasons others outlined.
posted by jessamyn at 9:47 AM on September 25, 2019 [15 favorites]

The best advice people typically give for your problem is to present the symptoms you have that the drug is useful for, and ask for ideas of what might help, rather than asking for a drug. let the doctor exercise their big brains and be the one to suggest it. This can't be forced and can rarely be engineered. It is not guaranteed to work.

obtaining them again if I feel they are helpful?

Queenofbthynia has pointed out something in your post that I think is a very important key. You don't have the power to obtain drugs because you feel they are helpful - your perception here may be true, but that's not how medicine works. You present your symptoms, and the doctor decides what might be helpful. You get to provide feedback, but it is up to the doctor to decide the treatment. They may think a different treatment would be helpful - you don't have the power to tell them what treatment you want.

I'm not saying this is right - just that's how a lot of doctors think. Understanding that can help you find providers that will align with your views and talk to them in a way that gives you a more likely desired outcome.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

queenofbithynia response is excellent--thorough and on target. As one who employed 8 full time psychiatrist (before retiring)the tone of your post is in itself somewhat of a red flag. Few skilled/patient centered physicians are willing to prescribe benzos on any going basis. The are specifically designed for only short term use in the acute management of symptoms. That does not mean regular use is not sometimes appropriate--they are sometimes prescribed on an ongoing basis where there are established baselines showing no evidence of dependence/tolerance, chronic and debilitating general medical illnesses, limited life span, absence of alcohol dependency/abuse, multiple failed trials of other medications. From a medical-legal perspective benzos are high risk prescription for the physician(abuse/dependence/interactions/cognitive impairment/compromised motor skills etc). I would hope you have the opportunity to explore other medications that are much safer/effective over a period of time--there are many but it does take patience and trial/error. BTW--There really is no legal recourse.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:26 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

the tone of your post is in itself somewhat of a red flag.

From what I've observed acting like you want benzos (regardless of your abuse risk profile or how you've benefited from them in the past) is a great way to get doctors to not give them to you. I have sat in support groups with scads of people expressing their frustration at the difficulty of convincing doctors to give them refills on their minute prescriptions. Meanwhile, I didn't particularly want benzos, openly expressed my reticence to doctors, and was given overflowing quantities of them for daily use. I don't think it hurt that I present as an educated middle class White woman.

The best advice people typically give for your problem is to present the symptoms you have that the drug is useful for, and ask for ideas of what might help, rather than asking for a drug. let the doctor exercise their big brains and be the one to suggest it.

posted by Secret Sparrow at 12:18 PM on September 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

The legal and regulatory burden to prescribe benzodiazepines and other controlled substances is high. It requires additional certification as well as ongoing regulatory checks and random audits from the DEA. If a physician is felt to be over-prescribing, they will lose their license and their livelihood. It's not something to be done lightly. I don't know if you care about why your doctors are so hesitant, or if you just need to vent, but we really did all get the memo to pull back on benzos -- in most cases, literally.

As queenofbithynia points out, physicians, like most other adults, do not appreciate being dictated to. You're much better off describing your symptoms and what has or hasn't worked in the past, perhaps with an advocate as an intermediary if needed. Best of luck
posted by basalganglia at 2:01 PM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would also add, very anec-data-ly, that if you are in a state that has adopted medical cannabis you may want to look into that — more as an alternative to Ambien than Valium or Xanax, at least as far as full on THC products are concerned.

There are pros and cons, but personally I feel better about using cannabis long term (read: forever) than I would Ambien, which has led to some mild but worrisome Ambien Walrus type experiences when I've relied on it too heavily.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:17 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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