CDC issues guideline for prescribing chronic pain medication

CDC issues guideline for prescribing chronic pain medication

(KUTV) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain patients Tuesday. The CDC made recommendations for when primary care physicians should prescribe opioids, how much to prescribe and for how long, and patient risk factors.

"It discourages jumping off to using opioid treatment as a first resort," said Angela Stander with the Utah Department of Health.

Stander said one Utahn dies from a prescription drug overdose almost every day. She said it was the leading cause of injury death in Utah, and her agency believes issuing these recommendations is a step in the right direction.

"From these guidelines, we will create Utah-specific clinical guidelines and then do our best to educate providers in this state."

One change Stander suggested was a more widely-used system to monitor patients on opioids. Right now, all doctors have access to a controlled substance database with information about what doctors prescribed to patients -- but not all of them use it. Stander said continuing to monitor the controlled substance database would allow doctors to know if their patients are trying to obtain prescriptions dishonestly.

"[They can make] sure doctors are checking records of these patients to make sure that they are not doctor shopping and receiving pain medications from other providers."

Stander also talked about recently passed legislation to make naloxone more readily available. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can reverse the effects of an overdose and save someone's life. The CDC recommended doctors co-prescribe naloxone to chronic pain patients.

"Whether that patient is necessarily abusing them or not, there's the risk for overdose, so it's important they have naloxone in any home with opioid medication."

When the law goes into effect, Stander said, people will be able to get naloxone at their local pharmacy, "Just like getting a flu shot."

Primary care physicians said they would like a reference for how to treat patients with chronic pain, according to the report.

The handbook recommends prescribing opioids to patients in chronic pain only after other options like physical therapy, exercise, dietary changes, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more have been exhausted.

Dr. Christina Bokat said the pain management program she works for at the University of Utah already adheres to the guidelines.

"If people need opioids, whether that's for people who have chronic pain or acute pain, I think that is entirely appropriate. They're not telling them not to use them, but that these are some other guidelines to use first."

The CDC guidelines are recommendations, not law.

"These are guidelines, and no one's going to force them to change their prescribing behaviors. But the hope is that they'll recognize and be more cautious," said Bokat.

For more on the safe usage of prescription medication, please see

Follow Lisa Nico on Twitter @LisaNicoNews for breaking news, updates and more.

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