Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CDC proposal would limit painkiller prescriptions; prescription rates highest in the South

A rising death toll from opioid overdoses—especially in rural areas—has led health and government officials in many states to call for a limit on the number and strength of painkiller pills prescribed by doctors, Christine Vestal reports for Stateline. "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is close to taking the unprecedented step of issuing national guidelines to curb liberal opioid prescribing practices widely blamed as the cause of the epidemic."

The largest number of painkiller prescriptions are in the South, led by Alabama, where 142.9 prescriptions are given for every 100 people, Vestal writes. Other states where the number of prescriptions is more than one for every person are: Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina. Hawaii has the fewest, at 52 prescriptions per every 100 people. (Stateline graphic)
"CDC’s draft proposal urges primary care doctors to try drug-free methods to relieve chronic pain, such as exercise, weight loss and physical therapy, as well as non-opioid pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, before resorting to powerful opioid pills," Vestal writes. "If opioids are needed, the guidelines recommend starting with the smallest effective dose of immediate-release opioids, avoiding more dangerous time-release formulations except when needed." (Stateline graphic)
"Democratic and Republican governors unanimously support the CDC initiative and have pledged to promote the voluntary physician guidelines in their states," Vestal writes. "But the American Medical Association and pain organizations backed by drugmakers are complaining the initiative could make it difficult for chronic pain sufferers to get the pills they need."

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