National Academies To Help Develop New Opioid Prescribing Guidelines

Federal health officials have announced a new plan to develop scientific based guidelines for prescribing opioids to patients, as part of an on-going effort to prevent overexposure to the powerful painkillers, which are linked to more than 40 overdose deaths on a daily basis in the United States. 

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement on August 22, announcing a new study intended to help provide evidence based guidelines for prescribing opioid medications, in an effort to create a more rational prescribing practices.

The FDA’s new evidence based, indication-specific guidelines will be developed with the help of the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to reexamine how opioid analgesics are being prescribed and when they are deemed an appropriate course of treatment.

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NASEM’s goal is to conduct a consensus study to identify and prioritize medical procedures and conditions that are associated with acute pain for which opioid prescriptions are medically necessary and to determine the length in which opioids should be used.

Over the past decade, an opioid abuse and overdose epidemic has emerged in the United States, which continues to kill more people each year.

The FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have indicated the opioid crisis are at an all-time high, with overdose deaths increasing nearly 140%. From 2015 to 2016 alone, drug overdoses increased 21.5%, resulting in 64,000 overdose deaths with more than 42,000 of those, or 66%, involving opioid painkillers.

Most individuals who become addicted to opioids will first be exposed to these powerful synthetic forms through lawfully prescribed medication, Gottlieb noted. An analysis of current prescription process shows that most individuals being prescribed opioids are given a 30-day supply when in theory the patients only require a few days of the high strength medications. Officials claim patients can become addicted to the opioid medications within the first couple days or weeks.

Excess opioid medications are believed to commonly end up in the illicit market, misused, or abused by friends and family members of those prescribed the medication. Patients who are prescribed more than medically necessary may find themselves more prone to abuse or misuse the opioids, potentially leading to overdoses, says officials from the FDA.

The organization will hold a series of meetings and public workshops over the next few months open to stakeholders to collaborate on ideas and examine current guidelines in an attempt to further develop prescription policies that more closely comport with clinical need and reduce patients’ overexposure to opioids.


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