Publication date: Apr 12, 2019
Federal agencies behind efforts to address the nation’s harrowing opioid epidemic took major steps this week to address a brewing public health crisis involving pain patients who have been wrongly cut off or abruptly tapered down from their prescription painkillers.
Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned doctors not to abruptly stop prescribing opioid painkillers to patients who are taking them for chronic debilitating pain, generally lasting more than three months.
GUTFIELD ON THE UNINTENDED VICTIMS OF THE OPIOIDS CRACKDOWN On its website, the agency said: -FDA has received reports of serious harm, including serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain and suicide, in patients who are physically dependent on opioid pain medicines when these medicines are suddenly discontinued or when the dose is reduced too quickly, often without adequate patient communication, follow-up or support. “
The clarification – for which pain patient advocates and many medical groups have been pushing – stresses that the guidelines are just suggestions that targeted primary care doctors who were prescribing opioids to first-time users.
-State medical boards, state attorneys general, insurance carriers, pharmacies, and the health care system have weaponized the guidelines, and doctors have told patients that they have to take them off opioids because it’s the law,” said Schatman, who is a clinical psychologist.
The series reported that pain patients around the country who relied on opioids – either entirely or as part of a larger treatment regimen – for years in order to function suddenly were being put on ineffective low doses or dropped by their doctors altogether.
In many cases, the patients told Fox News that they had tried non-opioid treatments for their pain, but turned to opioids as a final resort after the other methods did not bring relief.
-There’s a population of people who have been on them for a long time, some for decades, and now they’re being denied their medication or forcibly tapered – and these patients have been destabilized — because the CDC and law enforcement agencies and pharmacies and others have been focused lowering opioid use. “
In March, the CDC received a letter signed by more than 300 medical experts, including former drug czars from the Obama, Clinton and Nixon administrations, expressing concern that the 2016 guidelines had become a tool for insurers to deny opioid coverage and for doctors to undertreat or drop pain patients.
The FDA’s new label will warn doctors that rapidly discontinuing opioids in patients who are dependent on them can cause withdrawal symptoms including uncontrolled pain, nausea, chills and anxiety.
The federal agency said doctors and patients should agree on a plan to gradually reduce their dosage, based on their treatment history, type of pain, psychological state and other factors.
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