CDC's Guideline Is a Much-Needed Start

The National Safety Council put it even more succinctly, so that no one could miss the gravity of this situation: 52 people in America are dying from prescription opioid overdoses every day.

CDC recently published its new Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Recommendations and Reports, offering much-needed recommendations to improve patients’ safety and care for those with chronic pain, while also addressing th prescription opioid overdose epidemic. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the agency, which reports that prescribing and sales of opioids had quadrupled since 1999 with no change in the amount of pain Americans report.

The National Safety Council put it even more succinctly, so that no one could miss the gravity of this situation: 52 people in America are dying from prescription opioid overdoses every day, and enough opioids are currently being prescribed to give every American one bottle of pills.

The guideline is intended for primary care providers. Its recommendations include:

  • Non-opioid therapy is preferred for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.
  • When opioids are used, providers should prescribe the lowest effective dosage.
  • Providers should work with patients to establish pain treatment goals, check for improvements in pain and function regularly, and taper or stop opioids if a patient is harmed.

The guideline addresses: 1) when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain; 2) opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up, and discontinuation; and 3) assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use. "Prescribers need this guideline if we ever hope to curb the most fatal drug crisis in U.S. history," NSC said in response, adding that the guideline "is not just appropriate, but necessary to save lives."

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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