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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

CDC Releases Draft Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a dramatic increase in overdoses in 2014, compared to 2013. More than 47,000 Americans perished from a drug overdose in 2014, up 7 percent from the year before. Naturally, the bulk of overdose deaths were the result of prescription opioid and heroin use, despite government efforts to curb the insidious epidemic. In response to the findings, the CDC has released new draft guidelines for doctors to reduce opioid prescriptions, The Washington Post reports. The agency is urging primary care physicians to take a more conservative approach when it comes prescribing powerful narcotics, drugs like OxyContin (oxycodone).

The CDC is calling on doctors to explore alternative methods of pain management for treating chronic pain cases. The prescribing of opioids should be a last resort; doctors should explore using non-opioid medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and physical therapy, according to the article. If prescription opioids are required, the CDC recommends that doctors prescribe the lowest dose and turn to short-acting versions of the drugs, rather than extended release.

"What we want to just make sure is that doctors understand that starting a patient on an opiate is a momentous decision," said CDC director Tom Frieden. "The risks are addiction and death, and the benefits are unproven."

The CDC suggests that doctors conduct urine testing before they prescribe an opioid prescription, the article reports. Additional urine analysis should be performed at least annually to ensure their patient is not taking other opioids or illegal drugs. Prescription narcotics also carry a high street value, some people who are eligible for the drugs will fill prescriptions only to divert them for profit; conducting drug tests will tell doctors that their patient is taking their prescription.

A CDC panel reviewed over 100 studies on opioid therapy, in order to an attempt to provide doctors with evidence-based information. The guidelines are not meant for doctors treating patients with severe chronic pain, the result of:
  • Diseases
  • Late-Stage Cancer
  • End-of-Life Care
"Primary care providers report concern about opioid pain medication misuse, find managing patients with chronic pain stressful, express concern about patient addiction and report insufficient training in prescribing opioids," the panel wrote.

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