Opioid crisis: Most physicians on board with CDC guidelines

The majority of doctors who responded to a Medscape Medical News poll said they will likely adopt stricter guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for prescribing opioids to treat chronic pain.

Roughly 3 in 4 of the 241 physicians who responded to the poll said they will use the guidelines issued by the CDC in March for primary care providers, according to Medscape. The guidelines, developed to help mitigate the country's opioid abuse epidemic, advise doctors to consider alternatives rather than prescribe opioids for chronic pain 

The poll showed that 76 percent of physicians said they are very (49 percent) or somewhat (27 percent) likely to incorporate the CDC guidelines into their practice. However, 20 percent of respondents were from outside the U.S. Of the 94 nurses, including advanced practice nurses, who answered the poll, they were slightly less willing (62 percent) than physicians to incorporate the government guidelines.

Clinicians report that they see many patients for treatment of pain. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they see 31 or more patients with chronic pain per month, or slightly more than one a day on average. Physicians worry about patients already taking opioids for pain and one said the CDC guidelines do not seem to provide recommendations about how to treat them.

One pain management specialist told Medscape that physicians bear a share of the responsibility for the opioid crisis, "but this national crisis has many authors." The physician blamed pharmaceutical companies that have aggressively marketed opioids, the drive to make pain the "fifth vital sign" and push doctors to make all patients pain free, and the move to tie patient satisfaction to hospital payments.

On Wednesday, critics sent letters to both The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calling for changes in pain management standards and the removal of questions about pain treatment from patient satisfaction surveys in hospitals.

To learn more:
- read the Medscape article