CDC: Some Policies on Prescribing Opioids Inconsistent with CDC Guideline

As prescribers attempt to prevent and even reverse the over-prescribing of opioids to reduce misuse and overdose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that some practices being attributed to its 2016 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain (Guideline) are inconsistent with recommendations, and could potentially put patients in danger.

Specifically, in a statement issued last week, CDC warned against abrupt tapering or sudden discontinuation of opioids. CDC clarified that, while it recommends patients receive the lowest effective dosage (<90 morphine milligram equivalents, or MMEs) when treatment is started, the Guideline does not suggest discontinuation of opioids that are already prescribed at higher dosages. Additionally, sudden tapering and discontinuation can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, which may include pain and psychological distress, and may lead patients to seek other sources of opioids.

At a U.S. Senate hearing entitled “Managing Pain During the Opioid Crisis” held in Washington in February, pain patient and national director of policy and advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, Cindy Steinberg, told of her personal story of dealing with chronic pain for over 18 years. Steinberg challenged the lack of expertise on chronic pain management and urged restoring balance to opioid prescribing for patients who have a legitimate need for them.

In the April statement, CDC said it is “evaluating the adoption, use, and public health impact of the Guideline and its related resources.”

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