FDA may urge training to dispense narcotics

The FDA is considering making a recommendation that doctors get special education to prescribe strong narcotics, despite the fact that it has no power to enforce such a proposal. FDA officials say they're most concerned about high-potency, long-acting narcotics like methadone, fentanyl and some forms of oxycodone. In particular, they've noted that a mix of methadone and fentanyl patches has been associated with patient deaths and injuries from doctor misprescribing or accidental patient misuse.

Under current DEA rules, doctors only need to show that they're licensed to practice medicine to register with the agency, which permits them to prescribe narcotics. There is an exception if doctors want to prescribe buprenorphine as an in-office treatment for narcotics addiction, which requires that they take eight hours of specialized training first. But they can prescribe even buprenorphine without extra training if they're using it to treat pain.

Lately, however, the agency has been under pressure to address issues with these drugs. In addition to recommending training for doctors, and sending out alerts to doctors regarding methadone and fentanyl, the agency is considering new rules requiring drugmakers to monitor how their narcotics are being prescribed.

To learn more about the FDA's plans:
- read this New York Times piece

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