CDC Satire Gets Taken Seriously

By Pat Anson, Editor

Everyone likes to be in on a good joke, but an article recently published online as medical satire is being taken seriously by some pain patients and healthcare professionals.

The article, published by Gomer Blog, claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new recommendations urging doctors to ignore patients who have a pain score greater than 4. Pain levels are commonly measured on a scale of 1 to 10.

The Gomer Blog story even has a purported quote from the CDC's director:

“Look, here’s the deal.  When you say your pain is 1, 2, 3, or 4, that’s actually believable to health care providers, so we’ll give you Tylenol, maybe even an NSAID,” explained the Director of the CDC Dr. Thomas Frieden.  “When you start getting into that 5 through 9 territory, it starts getting a little suspicious.  And we all know that pain of 10 or greater than 10 is, well, honestly, just bullsh*t.  So greater than 4?  Ignore.”

That would be funny, except for the fact I can actually see Frieden saying that.

Another quote from the story is from a fictitious doctor:

“In today’s health care climate half of my day is spent arguing with patients about opioids,” said primary care physician Jamela Wilson.  “The other half of my day?  Arguing with patients’ significant others about opioids.”

I could see an actual doctor saying that, too.

Not a word of the Gomer Blog story is true. But in the current Bizarro World of pain care -- where Medicare is afraid to ask patients about their pain treatment, the CDC hires a PR company to improve its image, and the DEA declares kratom an "imminent public health hazard" and then decides maybe its not -- well, some people have trouble sorting fact from fiction. And who can blame them?

“Is this true? I'd love to see you guys write something about this,” asked one PNN reader, who included a link to a nurse’s training center in Florida that republished the Gomer Blog story on its website.  

The FTC Training Center, which says that its mission is “to support the lifelong education of nurses,” never mentions that the Gomer Blog story is meant as satire. The post was made by Florvilus Nessley, a program director at FTC, who offers training and certification for nurses on hepatitis, dementia, the Zika virus, urinary tract infections and therapeutic hypothormia. Interesting curriculum, Florvilus. 

Calls and emails to the FTC Training Center were not immediately returned, as they say.

Gomer Blog describes itself as a “satirical medical news website created by a bunch of wannabe stand up comedians who ended up in healthcare.”

Recent Gomer Blog posts include articles about an infectious disease clinic handing out free chastity belts and hospitals blocking TV coverage of the presidential election to promote healing.

I can see that happening, too.