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CDC Proposes New Guidelines for Prescribing Pain Meds

April 27, 2022

May 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers in what a New York Times report described as a “course-correction” from an earlier 2016 guideline that many felt went too far in restricting opioid prescriptions. The new guidelines include 12 recommendations on prescribing opioids that balance the careful use of these agents to prevent addiction with guidance on their appropriate use in select patients.

The guidance warns about the dangers of opioid addiction and complications such as depressed breathing and altered mental states, while also noting the importance of opioids in the immediate pain management for traumatic injuries such as burns and broken bones. The new guidelines also recommend more flexible dosing for patients who need opioids to better focus on individualized treatment of pain control. The prior guidelines from 2016 suggested one-size dosing for all, with recommendations for a maximum dose of 90 morphine milligram equivalents daily.

These CDC guidelines are not mandatory but rather serve as suggested practices, despite the fact that the 2016 dosing ceilings allowed for prescriptions were codified in several states. The guidelines continue to caution that when opioids are prescribed, providers should regularly reassess their benefits and risks for each patient. It is also recommended that providers offer counseling, treatment, and careful tapering when needed for patients who test positive for illicit substances.

The guidelines do not apply to prescribing opioids for pain in patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, or end-of-life and palliative care.

Source: The New York Times, February 10, 2022.

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