CDC Releases Draft Guidelines for Doctors to Reduce Painkiller Prescriptions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released draft guidelines for physicians who prescribe opioid painkillers, which call for a more conservative approach to the drugs’ use.

The guidelines recommend doctors treat chronic pain with methods such as physical therapy and non-opioid painkillers before prescribing opioids, according to The Washington Post. If doctors choose to prescribe opioids, they should select short-acting versions instead of extended release formulations, the guidelines recommend. Doctors should also prescribe the lowest possible dose, for shorter periods, the CDC said.

Doctors should ask patients to undergo urine testing before they receive an opioid prescription, and to take additional urine tests at least annually if they continue to take the medication, the CDC advised. Testing will ensure that patients are not secretly taking other opioids or illegal drugs, the article notes.

Last week the CDC released data showing more than 47,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2014, up 7 percent from the previous year. The increase was driven largely by deaths from heroin and prescription opioids. Almost 19,000 deaths were due to opioid painkillers, an increase of 16 percent from 2013.

“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 guidelines note that three or fewer days of opioid treatment “usually will be sufficient for most non-traumatic pain not related to major surgery.”

The voluntary guidelines were written by a CDC committee, which reviewed more than 100 studies on opioid therapy. They are not meant for physicians who treat patients with severe chronic pain associated with diseases such as late-stage cancer, or those who provide end-of-life care.

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    David Miller

    January 7, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    What happens when a Dr has a knee junk reaction to prescribing OPIOID pain pills by redusing the amount of pain medication per day because of articles such as this. Also mandates made by his employer to protect themselves from DEA scrutiny. Then the patient suffers increased pain and discomfort as well as a reduced quality of life. What recourse, help, rectifying is there for this patient? This is exactly what I am facing as a VA patient. The effort to reduce and control abuse is laudable, even necessary but who advocates for the innocent patient who suffers from chronic pain? This is the problem with legislation designed as a fix-all. What happened to a common sense approach to medical interventions. Legislators and DEA, CDC, please let Drs be that advocate for these patients without fear of the jack-boot reactions such as this.

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    January 5, 2016 at 12:21 PM

    I foolishly sent my high school senior to a “PHYCHIATRIST” because she felt stressed. I had no idea this “Doctor” would prescribe pills that would ruin my daughters life. After I witnessed my daughter become a zombie, I requested the Dr. get her off these pills by lowering the dose. But in the meantime she became 18. Then the doctor refused to speak to us, her parents. I now have no control. I told my daughter I refuse to pay for further treatment. So she stopped seeing the “PHYCHIATRIST”

    I then find out her Internist sent in a prescription for the same drugs!! I explained everything to the internist that I wanted her to lower the dosage until she is off, but she told me “your daughter has to request that she wants to stop”
    I am convinced that these drug companies lobbiest are in the pockets of our politicians and our medical community! I really would like the medical community to publish a list of doctors that are against prescribing these drugs.
    ps. My daughter was never given a urine test. Just the standard blood test once a year. I have now joined this site.

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    December 15, 2015 at 5:46 PM

    Again we find a one size fits all approach to pain management. This article is filled with inaccuracies that are slanted toward one agenda, fewer opioid prescriptions. One should keep that in mind in reading this article. When an agency has particular outcome in mind it’s not surprising that every intervention mentioned is “no prescription”. There are legitimate needs for this pain medication and this article paints all/most people who use them as manipulative addicts.
    “The risks are addiction and death, and the benefits are unproven.” That statement is obviously written by a person who has never had pain that could only be managed by opioid use. Appropriate pain management is a proven benefits that directly impacts quality of life. Sending someone to a pain management clinic or other such dubious intervention does little to no good. The only mission of such agencies is to teach someone to “live” with pain. Why we do that when we have a perfectly reasonable alternative? Because with opioids we are forever guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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    John Haeger

    December 15, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    “They are not meant for physicians who treat patients with severe chronic pain associated with diseases such as late-stage cancer, or those who provide end-of-life care.” Is this throwaway tacked onto the end of the article accepted by the DEA ? Has DEA published its concurrence to the prescribing community ? What non-opioid pain killers does CDC recommend ? Aspirin ? Alleve ? Capsaicin ? CDC could be more constructive if they would recommend proven alternatives for severe chronic pain–AND get DEA buy-in.

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