In an effort to curb the growing public health crisis in the United States, the federal government released new recommendations for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges doctors to avoid prescribing highly addictive drugs for chronic pain as part of the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, the first national standards for prescribing painkillers.
In the United States, 46 people died from an overdose of prescription painkillers each day. The CDC also reports that physicians wrote a total of 259 million painkiller prescriptions in 2012, which is enough for each adult to have a bottle of pills.
"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," said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director.
The new national standards end months of arguments between pain doctors and drug industry groups opposed the recommendations. Those who are against say that the guideline would pose unfair difficulties for patients who are really suffering from severe and chronic pain.
CDC, however, excluded some cases wherein painkillers are legitimately needed, including cancer, palliative care and end-of-life care.
The guideline outlines 12 recommendations doctors can take note of when prescribing painkillers. Physicians should consider prescribing non-opioid therapy for chronic pain not related to cancer, end-of-life care and palliative care. This means prescribing less addictive painkillers first.
If opioid is needed or used, doctors should prescribe the lowest effective dose to lessen the risk of overdose. Doctors should also monitor patients and exercise caution in prescribing opioids.
The guideline is intended to improve communication about the risks as well as benefits using opioids for chronic pain. This will help improve safety and effectiveness of pain treatment and reduce the risk of addiction and overdose.
Many supported CDC's new guideline, adding that the federal government implemented one of the most noteworthy interventions to stem the deadly prescription drug epidemic.
"This is the first time the federal government is communicating clearly to the medical community that long-term use for common conditions is inappropriate," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, head of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
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