The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formally announced a draft of its new opioid prescribing guidelines on December 14.  The guidelines aim to stem the rise of opioid addiction in the U.S. while still providing pain relief to patients who need it. Some of the key provisions of the CDC guidelines are:
• Consider the use of non-pharmacologic therapy and non-opioid therapy for chronic pain. Opioids should only be prescribed if the expected benefits for pain and function are greater than the risks.
• Establish treatment goals before starting long-term opioid therapy. Physicians should only continue prescribing opioids if there is “clinically meaningful improvement” that outweighs safety risks.
• When starting opioid therapy, doctors should prescribe short-acting opioids instead of extended-release, long-acting opioids.
• When opioids are started, doctors should prescribe the lowest possible effective dosage.
• When prescribing for acute pain, the lowest effective dose of short-acting opioids should be prescribed and only in quantities for the expected duration of the pain.
• Patients should be evaluated within one to four weeks of beginning long-term opioid therapy, and be reevaluated at once every three months afterwards to assess benefits and harms of continued treatment.
The opioid guidelines have been postponed to later in the year. Within days of being release, the guidelines were criticized as unfairly restrictive to patients needing pain care. The CDC will have the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s Board of Scientific Counselors review the guidelines and public comments on January 7. The comment section is still open at this time.