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CDC Proposes Relaxing Guidelines for Doctors Prescribing Opioid Painkillers


February 14, 2022

As reported on modernhealthcare.com, on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released proposed changes to its guidelines for U.S. doctors prescribing oxycodone and other opioid painkillers.

Previous guidance, which has been in place for the past six years, was aimed at helping to slow the kind of prescribing that contributed to the U.S.' overdose epidemic. The proposed changes would roll back some suggested limits on opioid prescription guidance, with the general intent of fostering individualized patient care.

As reported on modernhealthcare.com, CDC officials said that the current stricter guidelines caused some doctors to become too quick to cut off patients taking prescription painkillers and too strict in keeping the drugs from patients who might benefit. Christopher Jones, Acting Director of the National Center for Injury and Prevention Control at the CDC and co-author of the draft guidance, was quoted saying, "We began to hear how the guidelines were being misused and misapplied."

However, many are concerned about these new potential guidelines, and believe the 2016 guidelines have succeeded in helping to reduce inappropriate and dangerous prescribing. Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University, who was also an expert witness for plaintiffs in cases targeting pharmaceutical marketing practices, was quoted saying, "There was nothing wrong with the original guidelines." Dr. Fugh-Berman also emphasized that painkiller manufacturers and the groups they fund are among the critics of the current, stricter guidelines.

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, Chairman of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, and a head and neck surgeon in Flint, Michigan, is among those who welcome the updated guidance. Dr. Mukkamala said that the current guidelines have been a barrier to patient care, citing that some pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions as doctors wrote them, pointing to CDC suggested limits. As quoted on modernhealthcare.com, Dr. Mukkamala calls this "disastrous for patients in pain."

Some of the relevant potential changes include the CDC no longer suggesting trying to limit opioid treatment for acute pain to three days; dropping the specific recommendation that doctors avoid increasing dosage to a level equivalent to 90 milligrams of morphine per day; suggesting doctors should consider patient urine tests to determine if other controlled and illicit drugs are present; urging doctors to not abruptly halt treatment for patients receiving higher doses of opioids unless in life-threatening danger; and more.

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