Hoping to stem an epidemic of drug abuse tied to prescription narcotic painkillers, authorities in the US are now calling for tough new prescribing guidelines for the nation's doctors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US is now stressing that doctors, especially primary care physicians, should avoid prescribing addictive opioid painkillers, for patients with most forms of chronic pain. This includes prescribing them to patients suffering from back or joint pains, dental pain or other chronic pain treated in an outpatient setting. It would not include the use of narcotic painkillers for people dealing with cancer-related pain, or terminally ill patients in palliative care, the CDC said.
The CDC adds that more than 40 Americans are reported to die each day from prescription opioid overdoses; more than the number of people who die from car crashes each year. Fueling this high death toll is the over prescription of these opioids, which increased four-fold since 1999.
Besides calling for physicians to try non-narcotic options first for pain relief, the CDC advisory also laid out other steps to curb the abuse of opioid painkillers. Whenever these painkillers are prescribed, "the lowest possible effective dosage" should be used, the CDC said. Also, patients who are on such drugs should be closely monitored to "reassess their progress and discontinue medication if needed," the agency said.
In a study that tracked more than 2.7 million patients who had a tooth extracted between 2000 and 2010, found that within a week of the extraction, 42 percent of patients filled a prescription for a narcotic painkiller. The study also found that many of these patients were young — over 60 percent of the 14- to 17-year-olds were found to have filled such prescriptions.