PHOTO: Sen. Gillibrand’s call for CDC prescription guidance is the foundation of the bipartisan Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act, which she and GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito introduced in February. Courtesy of Sen. Gillibrand’s Office
By Michael V. Cusenza
Two U.S. senators from opposite sides of the aisle penned and sent a letter this week to the White House, urging President Barack Obama to use his administration to develop and publish guidelines for prescribing opioids for acute pain treatment.
According to Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), right now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is focused primarily on the treatment of chronic pain. Earlier this year, the CDC published its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide recommendations to primary healthcare providers regarding prescribing opioid pain medication to treat chronic pain in adults.
“However, not all individuals with opioid-use disorders began misusing opioids after receiving a prescription for chronic pain. For many, their difficulties with opioid addiction began after receiving an opioid prescription for acute pain,” the senators wrote in the letter. “For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that 64 percent of surveyed dentists preferred prescribing hydrocodone with acetaminophen for patients to use as needed after a wisdom tooth removal—a procedure common in young adulthood—for an average of 20 pills per prescription. These researchers recognized that a 20-pill prescription may be more than necessary, and that writing prescriptions for larger numbers of pills, when only a few pills will suffice, may cause patients to misuse the remaining pills.”
Gillibrand and Capito pointed out to the president that overprescribing of opioids for acute pain is potentially problematic in two ways:
“First, individuals with acute pain, particularly those who have not had previous exposure to any illicit substances, may be at heightened risk to abuse or become addicted to these substances in the future. This trend may be particularly relevant for younger patients. Second, as the research has shown, these prescriptions contribute to the available supply of opioids and are frequently and inappropriately diverted to others. More research on opioid prescriptions for acute pain and its relation to illicit opioid use would further illuminate these potential paths to addiction.”
This isn’t the first time Gillibrand and Capito have collaborated on this issue. In February, they introduced the Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act, which would require the CDC to issue guidelines for prescribing opioids for the treatment of acute pain.
“While we are hopeful that the Senate takes up and passes the Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act this year as part of the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, this bill does not need to pass in order for the CDC to develop and publish guidelines for prescribing of opioids for the treatment of acute pain,” the senators noted in their missive to Obama. “Similar to CDC’s development of the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and the other ways in which your administration has taken initiative to use administrative authority to address the opioid epidemic, we encourage your administration to use its authority to develop and publish comprehensive guidelines for prescribing opioids for the treatment of acute pain.”