The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face stiff opposition to its effort to reduce prescribing of opioid painkillers, the Associated Press reports. Critics of new prescribing guidelines include drug manufacturers, industry-funded groups and some public health officials.
The guidelines, which were originally scheduled to be released this month, are designed to reverse the increase in deadly overdoses of opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. They are not binding.
Opponents of the guidelines say they have been largely written behind closed doors, the AP notes. Officials from the Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies called the guidelines “shortsighted,” relying on “low-quality evidence.” The officials said they plan to file a formal complaint.
Following the officials’ comments, the CDC said the guidelines would not be released in January, and opened them to public comment for 30 days.
“This is a big win for the opioid lobby,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which aims to reduce painkiller prescribing.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told the AP politics did not play a role in the decision to delay the guidelines’ release. He said that while there is limited evidence comparing various treatments, “There is no way we can wait for better evidence while so many people are dying.”
The guidelines recommend that doctors prescribe opioid painkillers only as a last choice for chronic pain, after first trying non-opioid painkillers, physical therapy and other treatments. The CDC advises that doctors prescribe the smallest supply of painkillers possible—generally three days or less for acute pain. Doctors would continue prescribing opioids only if patients showed significant improvement.
Industry-funded groups such as the U.S. Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Management say the guidelines could impede patients’ access to medications if they are adopted by state health systems, insurers and hospitals. These organizations often look to federal guidelines in shaping their health care policies.