By Ed Coghlan
The Centers for Disease Control released its anticipated guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. The guideline is aimed at primary care providers to, as the agency put it, “ensure the safest and most effective treatment for their patients.” Primary care doctors write about half of the opioid prescriptions.
While acknowledging that opioids are often prescribed to combat chronic pain, the agency said the risks far outweigh the benefits for most patients with long-term pain, except for those receiving cancer treatment or end-of-life care.
“More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses, we must act now,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Overprescribing opioids—largely for chronic pain—is a key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic. The guideline will give physicians and patients the information they need to make more informed decisions about treatment.”
According to the CDC press release, “Chronic pain is a public health concern in the United States, and patients with chronic pain deserve safe and effective pain management.”
Among the 12 recommendations in the guideline, the CDC emphasized three principles are key to improving patient care:
- Non-opioid therapy is preferred for chronic pain outside of active cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care.
- When opioids are used, the lowest possible effective dosage should be prescribed to reduce risks of opioid use disorder and overdose.
- Providers should always exercise caution when prescribing opioids and monitor all patients closely.
“Doctors want to help patients in pain and are worried about opioid misuse and addiction,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “This guideline will help equip them with the knowledge and guidance needed to talk with their patients about how to manage pain in the safest, most effective manner.”
These guidelines are voluntary at this point.
Here’s a link to the guidelines: (click here)
The CDC came under fire for how they developed these guidelines. Even Congress was wondering how the agency’s Core Expert Group (CEG)was formed. Critics felt that the process was done with appropriate transparency and the CEG was weighted with more addiction advocates and that the voice of the chronic pain patient was not adequately represented.