Drug Overdose Death Rates in Rural Areas Exceed Those in Cities
A new government report finds drug overdose death rates are now higher in rural areas of the United States than in urban areas.
Family members of people who have died from opioid painkiller overdoses are calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to publish guidelines designed to reduce prescriptions of the drugs, The Wall Street Journal reports.
More than a dozen family members spoke at a public forum last week to discuss the draft guidelines, which would not be mandatory. The guidelines provide advice to primary care physicians about safer prescribing for opioids. They 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. 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 guidelines would not apply to cancer-related pain, palliative care or end-of-life treatment.
Many doctors and public health officials support the guidelines, but they have been opposed by some pain sufferers, groups funded by the pharmaceutical industry and other public health officials, the article notes. The opposition led the CDC to hold a public forum on the guidelines.