A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on Wednesday voted to recommend requiring doctors who prescribe opioids to receive training. Doctors’ groups have resisted mandatory training.
The FDA often follows their advisory panels’ recommendations, but the agency is not required to do so.
The Wall Street Journal reports the panel heard evidence on ways to improve opioid safety. The panel unanimously voted to recommend overhauling current federal regulations to train physicians and patients about the risks of overusing opioid painkillers.
“We need to teach people to use these drugs sparingly,” said committee member Jeanmarie Perrone, a professor of emergency medicine and toxicologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
The panel heard extensive public testimony from people who urged making opioid training mandatory for doctors, and cautioned the training should not be controlled by the pharmaceutical industry.
Emergency medicine physician Dr. Chris Johnson of Minneapolis told the panel, “Every brain is at risk for dependence. As far as the human brain is concerned, all opiates are heroin.” The only way to reduce addiction and overdoses, he said, “is to reduce opioid prescribing.”
In 2012, the FDA rejected a recommendation from an expert panel that called for mandatory physician training for opioid prescribing. The panel said such training might help reduce overdose deaths from opioid painkillers.
Since 2012, the FDA has required companies that make long-acting opioids, such as OxyContin, methadone and fentanyl, to underwrite voluntary medical education courses on prescribing the drugs. Last week, many of those companies said they support requiring physicians to have specific training or expertise in pain management before they can obtain a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe extended-release/long-acting opioids.