Will CDC Guidelines Help Curb Opioid Epidemic?


In a major news this week, CDC for the first time asked doctors to limit prescribing opioid drugs. This is an effort to control the drug addition epidemic in North America. Many claim that Pharmaceutical companies have led us to this epidemic by convincing physicians to prescribe more pain killers. Now, CDC says that the risks of these pain killers far outweigh benefits for chronic pain patients.

What do you think? Is it an epidemic? How did we lead to this epidemic? Are these guidelines a step in the right direction?

Statistics are staggering – over 40 patients die every day of opioid overdoses, over 250 million prescriptions written every year, use of opioids has increased four times over the last 15 years, and close to 2 million americans are addicted, or rely on these painkillers.

Here are the 12 guidelines issued by CDC – opioid prescription guidelines. They do not apply to scripts written for patients receiving cancer, palliative, or end-of-life care. Also, these guidelines are simply recommendations and physicians are not required to follow them. But, they definitely have an impact on insurance companies’ recommendations for physicians, and will likely help in reducing number of prescriptions written every year.

Three primary directions provided in the guidelines are as follows:

  1. For most patients, opioids should be prescribed as a last option, with other pain medicines like aspirin as a replacement, and patients should be encouraged to follow an exercise regime.
  2. Doses of these medicines should be as low as possible, and when required, should be increased at a slow pace.
  3. Everyone on opioids should be monitored and there has to be a plan to getting them off the drugs.

Here’s a CBS video where Dr. Tara Narula discusses these guidelines. Please share your thoughts..