Don’t Punish the Pain
Former court reporter/owner of Merandi Court Reporting and is the founder and Executive Director of The Doctor Patient Forum and Don't Punish Pain Rally Organization
Anyone who has experienced chronic pain or has had a serious injury or surgery knows there is a role for pain-killing drugs. We’ve also all heard that those drugs can be dangerous when taken recreationally or incorrectly. Claudia Merandi discusses the important role opioids play in treating patient pain and the campaign to limit or eliminate those necessary drugs. Claudia Merandi is a former court reporter/owner of Merandi Court Reporting and is the founder and Executive Director of The Doctor Patient Forum and Don’t Punish Pain Rally Organization. She is a patient advocate. Claudia and her organization can be reached at https://www.thedoctorpatientforum.com
[Jaunty Guitar Music]
Mike: Welcome, everybody. This is Avoiding the Addiction Affliction brought to you by Westwords Consulting and the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan. We've all heard the phrase opioid crisis. We've heard it over and over. Well, the term opioid takes into account a large number of substances.
Mike: And do they all carry the same risks and rewards? Are they all used in the same way? Our guest today has been an outspoken advocate for the continued correct medical use of opioid therapy to treat patient pain. Claudia Merandi is the founder and executive director of the Doctor Patient Forum and Don't Punish the Pain Rally organization.
Mike: She is a patient advocate. She lives in Rhode Island, but her reach extends far beyond America's smallest state. Welcome this morning, Claudia. How are you?
Claudia: Good. Thanks for having me, Mike.
Mike: I'm thrilled. I'm sure the listeners will get as we go on. Okay, let's start here. We can start anywhere. But opioids work.
Mike: Correct, Claudia? And for a number of conditions. Go.
Claudia: Oh, yeah. You know, I'm 55. I started to get sick when I was 4 years old with Crohn's disease. And I still remember the very first time I had a Crohn's attack. I was like four years old and I would eventually, you know, my dad had Crohn's disease and as I got older, my Crohn's disease would worsen.
Claudia: And one day my dad said to me, I'm going to give you this pill, but I only want you to take it when you absolutely need it. And throughout the years I would take that pill. So when I would change my pocketbooks or my purses, whatever people call them today, I would switch the pill. And one day and to enter the handbag or the purse, whatever the frig we're calling it.
Claudia: And I was out with my friends and I had the worst Crohn's attack of my life. I mean, I was, I was sick and I went in the bathroom and I, but I remember my dad said, only take it if you need to, because these people get hooked on pills. And I took it and I mean, it was like 20 minutes later, I could breathe again.
Claudia: The pain was gone. So of course opioids work. Unfortunately my Crohn's disease would only worsen and I would eventually spend 10 years in a hospital bed rotting. But opioids saved my life. Opioids saved my life, opioids save millions of people's lives. So the first thing I'd like to say to your listeners is if a doctor is telling you that opioids aren't effective for pain, that's a form of mental illness and you need to distance yourself from a mentally ill provider.
Mike: How did we get to the point where we're prescribing Tylenol? For, well, I just had a knee replacement. How do we get to Tylenol from prescription drugs that actually worked?
Claudia: Money. It's all about money. So this whole war on opioids It's always been about suing opioid makers and in order to have had successful multi district litigation in the United States, there needed to be a scapegoat and the scapegoat was OxyContin, the Sackler family.
Claudia: So, you know back in 2016, the CDC published these guidelines. The CDC was run by Tom Frieden. Another disgusting human being and he collaborated with these anti-opioid doctors and they said, listen, this is going to be a win win plan. We're going to post these guidelines. Millions of people will get caught up with their opioids, but we're going to make a lot of money.
Claudia: We're going to make a lot of money. We're going to all be experts in this opioid litigation. And that's exactly what happened. This whole war on opioids was always about money. Now, I'm not saying people didn't get hooked on pills, but here's the data. The true data supports that 99 percent of Americans who take opioids do not graduate to street drugs because drugs don't cause addiction.
Claudia: But in order to have that sensational opioid, you know, all of the lawsuits and all of the media, they would have to create this false narrative. And the false narrative is everybody who takes opioids becomes a drug addict. But drugs don't cause addiction. Trauma causes addiction. Lack of resources causes addiction.
Claudia: Lack of family support causes addiction. People can't survive in this horrible economy. And it's a lot of the young drug users today have never been prescribed an opioid. They just hit the streets and they're dying on street fentanyl. So we are at this place because of disgusting, vile human beings who made millions of dollars off of the back of the pain community and doctors are too afraid to prescribe opioids.
Claudia: And that's why we're hearing about these opioid free amputations. So you only have a 50 percent chance if you live in the United States of getting your pain treated. Very, very difficult.
Mike: I've heard you talk about the overdose data and breaking it out as far as pills versus street drugs.
Claudia: Uh huh.
Mike: The pills, it's a relatively flat curve for lack of a better word.
Mike: The number of people dying from overdoses on Oxycontin is about the same as it's been. The increase in death is basically fentanyl.
Claudia: Right, yeah, fentanyl, street fentanyl. I call it border fentanyl. I get attacked when I say it, but it's border fentanyl. This isn't fentanyl that's coming out of the pharmacy, right?
Claudia: And I do my best when I see the media post a graphic. I pick up the phone, I'm like, oh, what are you doing? Take your ridiculous graphic down. Nobody died from prescription opioids. I can't find anybody that died from prescription pain medication alone that was prescribed to that individual. But for your, for your listeners.
Claudia: I'm not, I'm not saying people don't get hooked on pills, but the people who blamed OxyContin for their addiction were already drug users. And that's what the data supports. So the people that said, well, I got hooked on pills, but research would later support those people were already struggling with addiction and they found their way to the pain pills.
Claudia: And that at the time was a safe supply of drugs. Then the government cut off that safe supply of drugs. And here we are, 122,000 dead Americans.
Mike: We've talked to people here who went from heroin to Oxycontin because it was cheaper. And then when all of this, when they couldn't get it anymore, they went back out onto the street to get heroin and when that price went up they switched to fentanyl.
Claudia: Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but it was easy to blame It was easy to blame the Sackler family, right? It was convenient. And you know people ask me do I I don't work for the Sackler family. I don't know the Sackler family I've attempted to connect with the Sackler family because I wanted to learn the truth. But you know, we've interviewed the best drug policy experts in the country and the truth is throughout the whole opioid epidemic, only 5 percent of the pills that were prescribed were OxyContin.
Claudia: Now we're never going to stop diversion. These there's always going to be drug trends and for a time, for about 10 years, the drug trend was with, they were pain pills. And before the pain pills, there was another drug trend. And there's always going to be trends, but. You know, I think what happened with our government is when the tobacco lawsuit money ran out, they like, well, listen, what's up, boys and girls who, what are we going to do here?
Claudia: We need to bolster these, the government, we need to, you know, put that money back. And these, and these various government agencies. So they're like, I know we're going to do one of two, all the opioid makers. But first we got to get the CDC to get these guidelines out. Then we're going to use those guidelines as weapons.
Claudia: We're going to start arresting all of the doctors, seize all of their assets. And we're going to, they created their narrative and people try to sound the alarm. So many people said, Oh my God, don't do this. If you start, if you sue all of these opioid makers and, you know, you codify those CDC guidelines, it's going to get bad.
Claudia: But nobody cared because these are horrible human beings who care nothing about life, they only cared about money. And here we are. And it's only going to get worse. There's 122,000 dead Americans. This time, in one year, it's going to be much, much worse.
Mike: You know, the guidelines talk about alternative methods for pain.
Claudia: Yeah, it's ridiculous. They don't work.
Mike: Well, not all of them work. And two, does your insurance cover them?
Claudia: Well, it's funny you should say that because yesterday, you know, a lot of these interventional pain people want to collaborate with me, probably because I've got the largest social media following in the country.
Claudia: And it looks like insurance companies no longer want to, you know, reimburse for a lot of these interventions, like the epidural steroid injections. A lot of people can't get surgery without getting a series of those injections. I mean, a lot of people don't realize this. Those injections aren't approved by the FDA and they've been banned in other countries.
Claudia: They're harming people. So I wish I could say the interventions have worked for people, but the people I advocate for, they've, they've exhausted the gimmicks. You know, there's so many gimmicks that are being forced on these people. These people are gaslit and a lot of the people I advocate for have a coexisting substance use disorder problem with chronic pain and they're treated like rabid animals.
Claudia: So when I get called in to advocate for a former drug addict, right, these people have been living good lives and they're in a near death car accident and they go, they get rushed in the ER and the doctor's like, Oh, I can't give you anything for pain. You have a history of addiction. And, and that's when I usually get, you know, that's when people will find me and I have to, you know, spend time on the phone with these 32 year old exhausted residents.
Claudia: Who, you know, they've been indoctrinated. It's really scary because these doctors, the young doctors are very, very dangerous because they've been indoctrinated into believing, well, opioids don't work for pain, right? It's bananas.
Mike: Well, and you said in one of the posts that you said, I liked a lot, you, you articulated to somebody, and I don't remember the criticism that that person was giving you.
Mike: You said, look, I don't advocate for these people. I advocate for... Who do you advocate for?
Claudia: Everybody, everybody, whoever. So, you know, unfortunately, I can't advocate for every single person that contacts me. We receive upwards of between 600 and 1000 responses. But our mission is to advocate for the person who is in pain and they are being denied access to pain medication.
Claudia: And that could be a person that struggles with addiction, or that could be a person that just struggles with chronic pain, or that could be the person that struggles with both. And we also advocate for doctors who are incarcerated for treating pain.
Mike: Yeah, and you do that in a very direct way.
Claudia: I've heard.
Mike: (laugh) I bet you have.
Claudia: (laugh) I've heard. And you know, as a former reporter, I get a lot of people, they'll say, Claudia, are you afraid? You know, I was like, afraid of what? There was one other advocate who did what I did and her plane went down. Her name was Siobhan Reynolds. Her plane went down with her significant other who was an attorney who was flying it.
Claudia: And listen, I don't put anything past the DEA. I don't put any, anything past the DOJ. These are corrupt. These people are nothing but corrupted individuals. I worked for the feds. I was a court reporter for the feds. I would be sick to my stomach. These are professional liars. And this whole war on pain pills, you know, I mean, I'm the advocate that people love to hate.
Claudia: I get slaughtered every day in the pain community. And last week I put out a few weeks ago, I put out this TikTok and I said, well, I mean, let's face it. Most people didn't. It was convenient to blame a doctor for your woes, you know, you're a mom or a dad, you lose your kid to addiction, it was convenient to blame the doctor because nobody likes to, nobody likes accountability, nobody likes the truth, and it's heartbreaking, you know, I watched my mom lose my brother, and my brother overdosed on ibuprofen, yet we didn't, we didn't sue the makers of ibuprofen, Because my brother made a choice and this is the United States has divorced themselves on just about every issue in the country and nobody wants to wake up and say, I want to be a drug addict and.
Claudia: But what we've done is, you know, we're, we're, we've given people permission to blame their doctor. And that's wrong because I got to tell you the addictions community, they're great people to work with. And they've been so honest. Like a lot of them said, I didn't take my medication as prescribed. I was stealing pain pills.
Claudia: I was buying them on the streets. I've never been prescribed an opioid, but I'm an addict. I got addicted to everything. But there's quite a few people that blamed their doctor for their addiction, and did it happen? It does happen, but it's rare. It's actually super rare for somebody to be prescribed a seven day script of opioids, and then day eight they graduate to heroin.
Claudia: I mean, come on, it's ridiculous, because drugs alone don't cause addiction.
Mike: And at this point, I think most people are wary enough That they're not going to overdo.
Claudia: Well, I don't... you know, i've got two kids, an 18 year old and a 22 year old and I tell them you can't even smoke a joint now.
Claudia: There's nothing safe in this country. Because of the border drugs, no drug on the streets is safe, none! It's it was never like this. So not only did the government create this fake opioid epidemic, but those friggin idiots made it worse, right? Because at the height of this overdosing epidemic, we were told by the CDC, well, 67,000 people died from prescription pain pills alone.
Claudia: But then people were questioning, well, let's see the data, and then they would say, well, it turns out we lumped heroin overdoses and fentanyl overdoses in with pain pills. So what's the number? Well, it was actually 16,600, give or take. We have all of that on our website. But then the more people that started to research it, the number started to actually look like 7,000. 7,000 deaths is not a crisis!
Claudia: Do you know that 150,000 people die a year from alcohol related events, 250,000 people die each year from sepsis. How is 6,000 pills? How is that a crisis? There was never a crisis. There was only greedy, gluttonous pigs who wanted to become experts. In opioid lawsuits and those people helped create the narrative like politicians did the same thing.
Claudia: I hear from politicians all the time that call me for help. I'm like, Hello. Nope. Goodbye. The chickens have come home to roost suck it up.
Mike: Well, you start you're starting to be listened to though, right? Didn't you just have a meeting with your senator Reed?
Claudia: I did. I did.
Mike: How did it go?
Claudia: Yeah, it went okay. You know, I mean, I've been hounding him for four years, right?
Claudia: They think I'm gonna go away. I'm like, I just have to sleep 10 hours a night and then I wake up and I'm fine. So I met with him. But, you know, six months ago, I testified before a Senate committee in Rhode Island and on another piece of legislation that I was working on, and before I testified, the lobbyist came up to me.
Claudia: He's like, he's like, boy, you've got a big mouth. I said, why? He's like, the bill is the bill just died in committee. I was like, I don't give a shit. I'm saying what I need to say. And I went up there and I said everything I needed to say and mouths dropped. And then three weeks later. I learned that the bill was signed into law.
Claudia: You never know what can happen. So I've been doing this a while, but I met with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, looking forward to another meeting with him. He sits on the DEA oversight hearing the Senate judiciary committee. I should say he the Senate judiciary committee conducts oversight of the DEA.
Claudia: Everything bad that's happened to the pain community is because of the DEA. They arrested our doctors, right? That's because of the DEA. They would get cut off of their pain medication or their benzos overnight. That's because of fear. And as long as doctors remain fearful. Nothing can change. So what we're doing at the doctor patient form is we are trying to remove the fear from the clinic.
Claudia: And you know, throughout all of my years of advocacy, I started to discuss the suboxone dental decay lawsuit. That's when I would really get attacked on social media, but I don't care because. They knew that their product was linked to dental decay, and they said nothing. And, you know, now we can verify that it was true, because now they've got competition.
Claudia: Now another pharmaceutical company has a version of Suboxone, and they're marketing it as, well, here, try our product. Our product won't destroy your teeth. So, you know, a lot has happened. Suboxone is being forced on the throats of the pain community, and I said, no, I'm not having it. I will do everything I can to interrupt this disgusting system.
Claudia: And the Suboxone Dental Decay Lawsuit has, because the end game, Mike, was to force people off of OxyContin and put them on Suboxone. That was the end game for the pain community. But, the Dental Decay Lawsuit has foiled. And I don't speak out against Suboxone for addiction because I believe Suboxone saves lives.
Claudia: I speak out against Suboxone for pain because it's not indicated to treat pain. It's not a full agonist opioid. It will never work as well as a full agonist opioid. It's linked to dental decay, bowel obstructions, excessive sweating, depression, the list goes on and on.
Mike: Well, and the other cure all that's being prescribed for everything is gabapentin now.
Claudia: Oh my God. And now I'm suing them next. I, that's, that's already in the works. Originally, I reached out to the law firm, I said, do me a favor, make up a questionnaire. But you can't sue GABA, you gotta sue Neurontin, because GABA's generic. And you know, the law firm's like, let's focus on the Suboxone lawsuit, and I said, okay.
Claudia: And I don't work for the law firm. I haven't been paid one penny to promote that dental decay lawsuit. But the Gabapentin, you know, I put out GABA videos. Those things get two million views overnight. Right? And, and, but they've already been sued. GABA's already been sued for, I think, a billion dollars.
Claudia: And so has Suboxone. They've already been sued before, but, you know, the media, it's like, shhh, they'll never, never discuss those lawsuits. So that's what I'm here for.
Mike: Well, so go back to the patient then. How do you, because you do have a large following. How, how should, what can patients do who need pain reduction? How can they advocate for themselves?
Mike: Like I'm going into the doctor. What, what can I do?
Claudia: Right. So first off, cancel any elective procedures you have coming up. Cancel them unless the pain medication is called in prior because even if you have a doctor who's willing to prescribe, pharmacies aren't going to have it once again because of the DEA.
Claudia: So cancel all elective procedures. Now there's some people that can't cancel certain things. And you know, I've been called in to advocate for septic people who have had their limbs amputated. And the doctor's telling them, we don't prescribe opioids anymore. I'm like, what, what are you talking about?
Claudia: I'm like, do you want me to sue you? Of course you're gonna prescribe them opioids, you friggin idiot. You're gonna kill them. They're gonna die from pain. So, here's the deal. If you are a pain patient and you're looking for a doctor first, there's two groups of doctors. The first group of doctors, they've been indoctrinated.
Claudia: Those are the doctors that are going to tell you to think your pain away and opioids don't work for pain. Distance yourself from those doctors. Those doctors will only harm you. The other group of doctors, they want to help, but they're afraid. Now they can't prescribe you opioids on your first visit because the DEA oftentimes sends in agents posing as patients.
Claudia: So first we need to protect the doctor. So, you know, if you can find a doctor that's willing to work with you, you may have to try the horrible drugs before they you know, prescribe you a full agonist opioid. Just let these doctors do what they need to do to protect themselves. So I, my best advice is, take advantage of all of our free resources on our website, but you need to differentiate between those two groups of doctors I've been called in to advocate.
Claudia: I advocated for this cute little old lady. She was on two pain pills a day, right? (chuckle) And I'd go into this doctor's office this young doctor comes in. He's very very happy and he said oh, it's just a pleasure to meet you. And it was during COVID. So my mask is on. You can't see the facial expressions.
Claudia: And he said, I read all of your records and there's this groundbreaking drug that I think can help you. I said, Oh my goodness, you've piqued my interest. What is this drug? He's like, well, it's Belbuca. And I said, let's go get your coat. We're out of here. And this doctor was like, well, what's going on? I was like, first off.
Claudia: This isn't my first time at the rodeo. I said, she's not going on buprenorphine. It's not going to help her. She's been on oxycodone. She was taking two oxycodone a day, right? I said, you're either going to help her or you're not. We're not, I'm not going to entertain this. I'm not entertaining this today. I said, you know, this is the situation, she's been stable on this medication, the other doctor just left, because what doctor is crazy enough to prescribe any opioid in the United States?
Claudia: And it didn't work out. So we left. And that's what we want people to do. Just leave. Don't return. If you find yourself at an interventional pain doctor, and they're telling you you need a series of injections, don't do it. Injections are going to make you worse. They're not going to make you better. Those injections work for healthy people, not for sick people.
Claudia: Or if they tell you you're going to need a spinal cord stimulator. No, absolutely not. Cause what's going to happen when this doctor retires, you're going to be stuck with the junk in your back. So just don't entertain the bad behavior. Do not return. Because let me tell you what doctors are they know what's happening and you know wallet pain Mike hurts the most wallet pain and it's already happening people are already saying screw you i'm not going i'm going to do pill counts and drug tests I can't leave the country i have to give you all my Wi-Fi information I mean because some of these doctors they this is a god complex a lot of them have. I got a friend that's a high prescriber she can be the biggest asshole there is because she's afraid and I don't blame her for being afraid because there are pill diverters.
Claudia: We can't stop that. But the DEA thought, well, if we could just monitor every single thing the pain patient does, well, we'll be fine. But why is the government focusing on the pain patient? Shouldn't they be focusing on something else like the 8 million unvetted immigrants that have infiltrated our country?
Claudia: Right? So it's easy. It's easy to take your guns out and go to a doctor's office. Shit, they don't, they don't shoot back (chuckle). So why not? And I've seen the video footage of these raids. So, you know, it's pretty interesting. But the best, and I say it every day, Familiarize yourself with your state. Get to know the anti-opioid wackos in your state.
Claudia: And that's what we do at the Doctor Patient Forum. If you have made one penny speaking out against my community, the pain community, you are on our Patreon subscription page. And if you follow me, I go deep, right? I'm always polite, never censored. I go deep. I'll think nothing about organizing a protest outside your home.
Claudia: Won't be a big one. But there would be three people outside with signs. Those doctors, they'll poop their pants. These, these guys aren't, they're not made to, to do this. They were, they became doctors to help. They see protesters, they will faint in the snow.
Mike: So, project forward in your optimistic view of the future.
Mike: How do we get to a place where, as my mom would say, you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Claudia: Well, that's already happened. They've drowned the babies. That's done. What we have to do is we have to rein in the DEA. We have to take aversion. So I have a law in Rhode Island that's not being enforced.
Claudia: But, you know, when I put my face on this cause, I thought, I live in the smallest state in the country. If I could change, everything about opioid prescribing for the better in Rhode Island than other states would follow suit. And that's what happened. I went on social media, you know, like 2016, I said, Oh, I'm going to organize a protest for pain patients.
Claudia: I had three people. Now there's chapters in all 50 states. Last year was our first real successful year as a nonprofit. And I think if we could reign in the DEA, have 10 senators come together from both sides of the aisle, acknowledge the problem. This is a national crisis, right? We need five Dems, five Republicans come together, hold a press conference and say We need doctors to start treating pain again.
Claudia: We're going to open up and we're going to open up rescue clinics. And these rescue clinics are for people with documented painful conditions. And we're going to protect those doctors who prescribe them full agonist opioids. So rescue clinics. That's step one. Step two, we have to force the DEA to lift all restrictions so opioid makers can start producing enough of opioids in the country.
Claudia: That's big, right? That's step number two. That's, those are two monumental tasks right there. But what we have that no other community has is we have 50 million votes. Somebody wants those 50 million votes. Maybe it's Robert F. Kennedy. Maybe it's Trump. I don't know, but I know somebody wants those 50 million votes and we can give them those votes.
Claudia: We can, we can deliver those votes, but we need one of these candidates to, you know, muster up the courage and say, listen. There's an untreated pain epidemic. These people need pain medication. Nobody's dying on pills alone. That's, that's a tough pill. No, no pun intended for a politician to say. But they've learned the hard way because politicians call me all the time now.
Claudia: Claudia, can you help me? Do you have a doctor for my mom? Maybe I do, maybe I don't. Too bad. You did this. So now it's the chickens have come home to roost. Now you suffer. You suffer like everybody else suffers. Or, you're gonna do something good. You're gonna meet with the governor. See, there's a lot of things that politicians can do.
Claudia: But they have to learn to fight. Because they, none of us are getting younger, right? I'm not. You're 65, I'm 55. It's only a matter of time before it happens to you. And it will happen.
Mike: (chuckle) Right.
Mike: Well, for those of you listening, this has been great. As you already know, there's links to Claudia's work attached to the podcast and it's endless and it's informative, entertaining. And as you know, she just doesn't back down.
Mike: Claudia, thanks for being with us today.
Claudia: Thank you Mike.
Mike: And also for your persistence and hard work.
Mike: For the rest of you, we invite you all to listen in the next time and until next time, try to stay safe and keep fighting for yourself.
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