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Concerns regarding opioid painkiller prescriptions

One of the types of medications physicians sometimes prescribe are opioid painkillers. These painkillers have increasingly become the focus of safety concerns. Opioid addictions and deaths from opioid overdoses have gone up in recent years. 

In response to this, many bodies have issued limits or guidelines regarding the prescribing of opioid painkillers, including states, insurers and doctors' offices. Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got into the game, issuing a set of guidelines related to the prescribing of opioid painkillers. As a note, these guidelines are voluntary, not mandatory. 

Among the things the guidelines recommend for primary care clinicians when it comes to opioid painkillers include:

  • Limiting doses of opioid prescriptions to as low of levels as possible.
  • Keeping most acute-pain-related opioid prescriptions to three days or less. 
  • Very carefully monitoring patients when opioid drugs are prescribed.
  • Offering non-opioid alternatives to chronic pain sufferers. 

The hope with the guidelines is that following them will help with reducing opioid addictions. Critics though worry that following such guidelines could get in the way of some patients getting the pain relief they need. As this underscores, the opioid prescription issue is a complex one that touches on a range of different concerns.

One wonders what effects these voluntary guidelines will have on opioid prescribing practices and policies here in Wisconsin and throughout America.

Given the great focus many bodies have been putting on opioid prescription safety issues as of late, opioid prescriptions may be falling under an increased amount of scrutiny. So, it is important for doctors to pay very close attention to developments in what is considered proper practice when it comes to opioid prescriptions and to exercise care when prescribing opioid drugs.

Being accused of crossing the line into the realm of the unsafe or improper when it comes to the prescribing of opioid painkillers or other drugs is one of the things that could potentially put a doctor's license status at risk. Experienced health law attorneys can help doctors who have had prescription misconduct allegations (such as opioid prescription misconduct accusations) leveled against them understand what license defense steps they can take to try to protect their livelihood.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "CDC Issues Guidelines to Limit Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions," Betsy McKay, March 15, 2016

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