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Are The CDC’s Opioid Guidelines Harming Pain Patients?


With the opioid crisis continuing to rage across the country, many national institutions focused on bolstering public health have leapt forward to provide guidance and assistance to medical professionals. The Center for Disease Control, for instance, famously issued new opioid guidelines and a pocket guide for medical professionals to rely upon when prescribing doses to their patients who are suffering from chronic pain. There are reasons to believe these opioid guidelines could be causing some harm, however.

Are the CDC's opioid guidelines harming pain patients rather than helping them? Here's what we know about the CDC's role in fighting the ongoing public health crisis.

Doctors are speaking out against the CDC

The primary reason that the CDC's opioid guidelines have fallen under suspicion is that doctors are beginning to speak out against them in droves. A wide array of health professionals, which was composed from a diverse set of backgrounds, including three former White House officials, recently put out a public letter to the CDC wherein they lamented the Center's opioid guidelines. These professionals assert that the CDC's opioid guidelines, which were put in place to help doctors when it came to prescribing pain killing medication, are actually harming pain patients by depriving them of adequate dosages needed to fight their pain.

The open letter included plenty of testimonies from patients who report that they've suffered recently because of the CDC's guidelines. The CDC's guidelines tell doctors that they should have frank discussions with their patients regarding higher-than-normal doses for painkillers, especially when exceeding a daily dose of 90 morphine milligram equivalents. Some doctors and patients have found themselves in need of doses in excess of 90 milligrams, however, though they assert that the CDC's new guidelines have made it frustratingly difficult for them to get the care they need.

With the opioid crisis continuing to rage across the country, it can be of little question that a comprehensive review of the CDC's guidelines is in order to ensure that the Center isn't inadvertently harming pain patients by overly-restricting their access to medical resources. The drug crisis has ravaged communities to such an extent that they've needed to rent death trailers to properly house the bodies of overdose victims. In recent years, the problem of overprescribing has been slightly mitigated, but overall dosage amounts continue to tick upwards as the amount of prescriptions slowly trickles downwards.

The public needs to know

One thing is abundantly clear - the public needs to know whether the CDC's guidelines are trustworthy or not. The CDC is a vitally important part of public health infrastructure, regularly finding itself responsible for educating the American public about health and hygiene issues that plague the nation. The CDC recently found it necessary to go on the offensive against anti-vaxxers, for instance, as a wide number of preventable diseases without the use of medical supplies have been enjoying a resurgence thanks to anti-scientific anti-vax campaigns. Such assertions that the CDC's guidelines are untrustworthy as it pertains to the opioid crisis could diminish the Center's ability to meaningfully convey the truth to the public on other issues.

A comprehensive review of the guidelines is needed to ensure that doctors aren't struggling when it comes to tapering opioids for chronic pain. The Center's existing pocket guide was a useful contribution to the public discourse surrounding the opioid epidemic, but it needs to release more comprehensive and fact-based information in order to reassure medical professionals that they're on the right path in the fight against addiction. There are plenty of reasons to believe that potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans are in pain right now because of the CDC's mistakes, and the Center needs to provide clarity on this issue to ensure its continued reputation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released information that indicates at least 500,000 Americans were beneficiaries of Medicare drug plans that exceeded the CDC's recommended dosage of 90 milligrams, for instance. While these figures aren't necessarily represented of the current American population, it's quite obvious that many patients are getting more than what the CDC recommends, which summons to mind questions about the current healthcare system. The CDC is an admirable public institution that's worth maintaining and defending, but the Center must act swiftly to determine if its opioid guidelines are harming pain patients. 

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Mar 23, 2019 05:28 PM EDT

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