By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

The CDC on Tuesday issued 12 recommendations aimed to stem the tide of an opioid emergency that’s strangling the life out of millions of Americans.

“More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses. We must act now,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH “Overprescribing opioids — largely for chronic pain — is a key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic. The guideline will give physicians and patients the information they need to make more informed decisions about treatment.”

Among the 12 recommendations in the guideline, three principles are key to improving patient care:

  • Turn to non-opioid therapy for chronic pain outside of active cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care.
  • When using opioids, prescribe the lowest possible effective dosage to reduce risks of opioid use disorder and overdose.
  • Always exercise caution when prescribing opioids and monitor all patients closely.

“Doctors want to help patients in pain and are worried about opioid misuse and addiction,” said Debra Houry, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “This guideline will help equip them with the knowledge and guidance needed to talk with their patients about how to manage pain in the safest, most effective manner.”

The CDC’s action is part of a swift federal one-two punch. On Friday, the HHS released $94 million to 45 states to help health centers improve and expand access to treatment for opioid and heroin addiction. The HHS action came less than three weeks after the National Governors Association visited the White House to present President Barack Obama a series of bipartisan recommendations on the issue.

AHC Media continues closely monitoring all the action on the opioid epidemic. In the February issue of ED Management, author Dorothy Brooks examined what were then the CDC’s draft recommendations on opioid abuse, which weren't without controversy, as well as alternative recommendations made by others. The March issue of Medical Ethics Advisor weighs the ethical boundaries of opioid “pain agreements” while the March issue of Primary Care Reports reviews safe strategies for prescribing opioids. AHC also offers an on-demand webinar detailing safe opioid prescription guidelines.