The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday issued a draft of revised guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers, urging doctors to be flexible and individualize their use of the drugs to the needs of the patient.
The CDC’s current guidelines were issued in 2016, largely in response to the over-prescribing of opioids in the United States from 2007 to 2012. The agency reports in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for the highly addictive painkillers, enough for every person in the country to have their own bottle.
The result was one of the worst drug-abuse epidemics in the U.S., with addiction and deaths related to the drugs skyrocketing. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to opioid pain medication.
But CDC officials said that while 2016 guidelines helped end the over-prescribing of the drugs, they also may have pushed doctors too far in the other direction.
Co-author of the new guidelines, acting director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Christopher Jones, said some doctors were too quick to cut off patients taking prescription painkillers and too strict in keeping the drugs from patients who might benefit.
The 229-page draft of the updated guidelines removes some of the suggested limits the original guidelines placed on administering opioids and proposes individualized patient care. It also offers more options for treating the kind of short-term, acute pain that follows surgeries or injuries.
The CDC published the draft of the new guidelines in the U.S. Federal Register, where the public can view and comment on them for the next 60 days. The CDC will consider comments before finalizing the updated guidance.
CDC guidelines are voluntary, though they are widely followed by U.S. healthcare providers.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.