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Some Doctors Say Change in Opioid Prescribing Rules Could Hinder Pain Treatment

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Some doctors are concerned that making it more difficult to prescribe opioids could hinder treatment of patients in pain, ABC News reports. Earlier this week, 37 health care workers signed and submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging officials to change labels on prescription opioids, in an effort to curb prescription drug abuse.

“I believe this is not an appropriate way to address the disease of addiction,” said Pam Kedziera, Clinical Director of Fox Chase Cancer Center’s pain program. “Pain is a significant problem in the United States, and those who suffer deserve treatment.”

The petition asks the FDA to prohibit drug companies from promoting opioids for moderate pain and from encouraging doctors to prescribe high doses of opioids for an indefinite period of time. While a change in the label would not limit how doctors prescribe opioids, it would prevent drug companies from promoting the drugs for non-approved uses.

“We’ve seen the pendulum go from it being extremely difficult for physicians to prescribe opioids to patients who didn’t have cancer… to where it was clearly being overprescribed,” Dr. Joshua Prager, Director of the Center for Rehabilitation of Pain Syndromes at the University of California at Los Angeles, told ABC News. “What I would argue for is that there really has to be balance that doesn’t have the pendulum swing back too fast and too far beyond what is reasonable.”

Both Kedziera and Prager object to a 90-day limit on opioids. Kedziera says she is concerned about taking chronic pain patients off medication just so that they will not exceed the limit.

Dr. Gregory Collins, who heads the Cleveland Clinic’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center, said he believes the measures outlined in the petition “unduly restricts doctors’ access to opiate medication in the treatment of numerous noncancer but painful conditions.”

1 Response to this article

  1. Dave / July 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    This is another attempt to practice medicine by administrative edict. It is the individual physician who knows the patient and what the patient needs. Such rules interfere with the physician being able to exercise clinical judgement. They also add to the cost of medicine requiring extensive documentation when there is any variation from the overly rigid guidelines. This is one of the factors driving up the cost of healthcare nationwide. The motivation is good—to prevent new addiction. But the way to do that in my opinion is to increase required education about pain management. Every PCP should have this knowledge. I’m assuming that 99%+ of docs want to do the right thing. They don’t need rigid rules. They need education and trust in their skill.

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