Consumer Watchdog Urges CDC To Move Quickly To Implement Guidelines To Rein In Opioid Overprescribing And Save Lives

States' Success With Mandate That Doctors Check Database Before Prescribing Opioids, One of the CDC's Recommendations, Show Medical Industry Fearmongering Is Unfounded

Jan 13, 2016, 13:19 ET from Consumer Watchdog

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Jan. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rein in opioid overprescribing by primary care physicians will reduce the prescription overdose epidemic and save lives, said Consumer Watchdog in comments submitted to the agency today.

One recommendation, that providers prescribing highly-addictive opioid painkillers be required to review a patient's prescription history in state databases before prescribing, has already been implemented in ten states and proven effective.

"A key piece of information – a patient's prescription history – is currently missing from providers' toolbox. It is inconceivable that physicians or hospitals would object to having one more piece of information on hand to make the best-informed decisions about a patient's care," wrote Consumer Watchdog.

Read Consumer Watchdog's comments:

A bill in the state legislature, SB 482 by Senator Ricardo Lara, would make California the eleventh state to adopt a requirement for physicians to check the state's prescription database, known as CURES, before prescribing opioids.

Some in the medical industry, including groups funded by the pharmaceutical industry, have launched a campaign to undermine the guidelines, stoking fears that rational prescribing guidelines will somehow make painkillers inaccessible. 

"The CDC's recommendations to fight opioid abuse are hardly radical, or even particularly unique. They track actions the medical and public health communities have taken across the country as they come to understand the opioid crisis and recommend changes in prescribing and prevention to stem the tide of overprescribing and save lives," wrote Consumer Watchdog to the CDC.

"Nothing in these guidelines should discourage physicians from including opioids in the treatment options they discuss with patients. Yet no one can deny that something must be done about out of control opioid prescribing. Improving provider education about opioid use and expanding the information available to providers as they develop a treatment plan is imperative to start reversing this public health crisis."  

Consumer Watchdog submitted evidence from several of the ten states that already mandate use of state prescription databases. The studies "provide convincing evidence of reduced doctor-shopping, lower opioid prescription rates, and physician appreciation for the utility of the databases to inform prescribing."

  • New York saw a 75% drop in patients seeing multiple prescribers for the same drugs.
  • Kentucky found opioid prescriptions to doctor-shopping individuals fell 54%, and overdose-related deaths declined for the first time in six years in 2013.
  • Tennessee saw a 36% drop in patients who were seeing multiple prescribers to obtain the same drugs. Tennessee prescribers report they are: 41 percent less likely to prescribe controlled substances after checking the database; 34 percent more likely to refer a patient for substance abuse treatment; and, 86 percent of prescribers report that the database is useful for decreasing doctor shopping.

CDC research depicts an opioid overdose crisis precipitated by overprescribing that is sweeping the United States. The disturbing facts include:

  • The amount of painkillers prescribed and sold in the United States has nearly quadrupled since 1999.
  • Drug overdoses are the number one cause of accidental death in the United States, and most of those overdoses are due to prescription – not illegal –drugs.
  • Prescription opioid addiction is the strongest risk factor for heroin addiction.
  • Drug-induced deaths have become more common than alcohol-induced or firearm-related deaths.
  • Opioid overdose deaths hit record levels in 2014, with the most commonly prescribed painkillers the number one cause of overdose death.
  • Physicians are the largest source of prescription drugs for users with the highest risk of overdose.
  • Free drugs from friends and family are the number one source of drugs for all prescription drug abusers.

Today was the deadline to submit comments on the proposed guidelines.

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SOURCE Consumer Watchdog