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Doctors directed by the CDC to prescribe fewer opioid painkillers... that the CDC advocated in the first place

CDC guidelines

(NaturalNews) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Every day, about 40 Americans die from an overdose of prescription opioid painkillers. To combat America's deadly prescription problem, the CDC has recently released 12 guidelines to advise primary care physicians, who are responsible for nearly half of the opioid prescriptions.

"We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. "We hope to see fewer deaths from opiates. That's the bottom line. These are really dangerous medications that carry the risk of addiction and death."

While the CDC has helped ensure the acceptance of these drugs in the first place, their main goal is ostensibly to protect public health and safety. Normally they leave all decisions about drug regulations to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the alarming rates of opioid-related deaths and addictions couldn't be ignored any longer, so they decided to step in to preserve their public image.

"For the first time, the federal government is communicating clearly that the widespread practice of treating common pain conditions with long-term opioids is inappropriate," said Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. "The CDC is making it perfectly clear that medical practice needs to change because we're harming pain patients and fueling a public health crisis."

CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain

The CDC advises doctors not to prescribe opioids as a "first-line" therapy. More attention should be given to alternative methods such as yoga and massage. They also note that these alternative methods should be covered by Medicare so the need for covered opioids can be reduced.

Furthermore, the guidelines state that a three-day treatment or less is sufficient and that treatments over one week should be rare. Standard doses shouldn't be more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) a day, and doctors should be more careful when prescribing more than 90MME.

The CDC urges doctors to be more mindful when it comes to prescribing opioids. Patients' history of prescription opioids should be checked, and physicians should go over the risks and goals for pain treatment with their patients.

The guidelines further note that exceptions can be made for patients receiving cancer treatment or end-of-life care.

Misleading marketing causes addiction and death

Yngvild Olsen, addiction medicine specialist and medical director of Reach Health Services in Baltimore, notes there has never been much evidence that opioids ease chronic pain. Nevertheless, doctors have been told that pain is a "vital sign" which needs to be addressed.

According to Olsen, the advice to manage patients' pain was accompanied by "misleading marketing of prescription opioids by manufacturers, who minimized the risks of misuse and addiction." She notes that doctors focus too much on treating and managing pain and miss or dismiss the presence of addiction.

Strong resistance

Just after the first draft of the guidelines was published, Big Pharma front groups voiced their anger. In November, the "non-profit" lobbyist group Washington Legal Foundation, which previously defended Big Tobacco and is now sponsored by Purdue Pharma, accused the CDC of violating federal law by initially refusing to disclose the "Core Expert Group" who drafted the initial guidelines.

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) then questioned the CDC's studies on the harmful and deadly effects of opioid drugs. They mainly complained about the lack of enough pain relief providers represented in the testing group and claim the CDC's findings aren't solid proof that opioids are not effective in treating long-term pain.

According to The Associated Press, nearly one-third of the IPRCC's panelists all received funding from pharmaceutical companies who make opioids. Oregon senator Ron Wyden of the committee on finance is now looking into the problem and has started an inquiry into the IPRCC and the involvement of pharmaceutical companies on government panels.

Years of misinforming doctors and the lack of official guidelines has made it possible for huge amounts of opioids to be prescribed and sold to the American people. Although the guidelines are not legally binding, it is a step in the right direction to address America's growing addiction and over-prescription problem.

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