The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines this year for the prescription of opioids for the management of pain (these guidelines do not apply to cancer patients and end-of-life care). These new recommendations are not mandatory but may be considered by juries when deciding on medical malpractice and lack of informed consent claims. Even the U.S. Surgeon General is promoting the benefits of the new CDC guidelines in a letter he sent, on August 25, 2016, to every doctor in the U.S.
These developments clearly indicate that a consensus has been reached that some doctors (both good and bad) have inappropriately prescribed opioids like--percocet and oxycontin (oxycodones), vicodin (hydrocodones), methadone and fentanyl.
The CDC guidelines include the following recommendations:
- that physical therapy and non-opioid medications like motrin and advil are preferred for chronic pain;
- that the physician should discuss with his/her patient the known risks (addiction/overdose) and benefits of opioids as well as the responsibilities of both patient and physician to manage opioid therapy;
- when starting opioid therapy for chronic pain, the doctor should prescribe immediate-release opioids instead of extended-release long-acting opioids;
- when opioids are started, doctors should prescribe the lowest effective dose;
- when opioids are started for chronic pain or the dosage is increased, reevaluate the risks and benefits within 1 to 4 weeks and every 3 months thereafter;
- when opioids are used for acute pain-no greater quantity should be prescribed than needed for the expected duration of severe pain - "Three days or less will often be sufficient, more than seven days will rarely be needed."
- before starting opioids the doctor should review the patient's prescription history using state prescription drug monitoring programs and do so periodically, at least every 3 months;
- doctors should order urine drug testing of their patients before starting them on opioid therapy and consider such testing, at least, annually to asses for both the prescribed opioid and any illegal drugs;
- doctors should avoid prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines (valium) concurrently whenever possible.
Opioids carry significant risk. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people died from overdose related to opioid pain medication in the U.S. alone. If you believe that you or a loved one have become addicted as a result of medical malpractice involving prescription painkillers, please consult an attorney to find out whether you have a valid claim by calling us. For more information on this subject click the link below.