While advocacy organizations mark September as Pain Awareness Month, federal, state and local health officials are leading a charge to change the way opioid medications are used and prescribed to manage chronic pain throughout the United States.
According to the CDC, there have been 165,000 overdose deaths related to prescription opioids in the United States since 1999. Nearly 2 million Americans aged 12 years and older have either abused, or were dependent on, prescription opioids in 2014. In addition, 4.3 million Americans have engaged in nonmedical use of prescription opioids in the last month.
FDA officials have called it an “epidemic” of “misuse, abuse and dependence.” HHS has initiated a nationwide initiative to curb opioid abuse, including funding to increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and referred to treatment, increase access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use, and provide training and educational resources to aid health care professionals in making informed prescribing decisions.
“Combating the opioid epidemic is a national priority,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in March. “That’s why the president’s budget requests more than $1 billion to fight opioid use disorder and overdose, and we look forward to working with the Congress to secure this funding. It’s why governors throughout the nation are working from common ground to end this crisis, and it’s why public health leaders across the country are finding innovative ways to push back against these troubling statistics and what it means to people in their everyday lives.”
According to the CDC, primary care providers account for nearly half of all opioid prescriptions, and as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in primary care settings struggle with addiction.
Below is a listing of the latest guidelines, research and news regarding opioids prescribed for pain. Here’s what you need to know:
CDC releases opioid prescription guidelines for primary care physicians
The new guidelines are aimed at the use of opioids in treating adults with chronic pain in primary care, outpatient settings, and are not meant for patients with cancer, or who are receiving palliative or end-of-life care. Read more.
ACOG: Opioids still needed during, after pregnancy
Opioid treatments are still warranted and safe at times during pregnancy and the postpartum period, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Read more.
Higher opioid dosage linked to overdose deaths in patients with chronic pain
Reducing the recommended opioid dosage threshold for chronic pain below the 100 morphine-equivalent mg currently used in recent guidelines could potentially benefit many patients who are at risk for overdose, according to data published in Medical Care. Read more.
State laws may impact rate, strength of opioid prescriptions
A small, but significant decrease in the amount of opioids that are prescribed and dispensed was seen after Florida enacted their Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and pill mill laws, according to recently published data in JAMA Internal Medicine. Read more.
FDA officials call for review of opioid policies
FDA leaders are calling for a reassessment of the agency’s approach to opioid medications, including changes to immediate-release opioid labeling, expanding access to naloxone, and supporting better options and alternative treatments for pain management. Read more.