Doctors Want Prescribing Guidelines For Painkillers To Be Stricter

Doctors Want Prescribing Guidelines For Painkillers To Be Stricter

Next to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, prescription painkillers are one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States. With frequently criticized lax prescription standards, many professionals and researchers believe the problem could be most effectively controlled before the drugs are prescribed.

A new petition from a group of physicians is aiming to improve Food And Drug Administration (FDA) standards and outline new regulations for prescribing these painkillers.

The Problem With Prescription Painkillers

When prescribed and administered appropriately, prescription painkillers are a tremendous asset in patient care. But many painkillers, especially opioids such as OxyContin, are habit-forming, and are sought after by numerous drug abusers who are seeking a high, as well as by drug dealers seeking increased revenues. Even patients who are using the drugs legitimately may find themselves developing an unhealthy dependency if they aren’t careful. Since these painkillers are widely prescribed and easily available for those who look, painkiller abuse has been a rising problem in the country.

Currently, it is estimated that the abuse of narcotic painkillers is responsible for over 15,000 annual deaths in the United States alone. While manufacturing companies insist that it is safe for patients to use narcotic painkillers over a long period of time, there is also a lack of significant long-term studies.

Current evidence suggests that many abusers of narcotic painkillers are able to obtain the medicine from individuals with an excess supply, or were originally prescribed the medicine to deal with pain after surgery or a medical condition.

The Petition

A group of 35 physicians, including Dr. Thomas A. Farley, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Dr. Nirav R. Shah, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, have drafted a formal petition calling for stricter guidelines for doctors who prescribe painkillers. The draft was submitted to the FDA, and the petitioners hope to it will result in new regulations to diminish the rates of painkiller abuse and addiction.

The petition splits painkillers into two main groups—short-acting drugs like Percocet or Vicodin (which include narcotics and over-the-counter painkillers), and long-acting painkillers like OxyContin or fentanyl, (which are pure narcotics). The petition seeks to limit all forms of narcotic painkillers to only be prescribed for the treatment of “severe” pain, and those with cancer. It also seeks to improve labeling regulations that express warnings, and advise limited dosages with a restricted time period of use.

Hope For Reform

The FDA has a weak history of responding to such petitions. If it responds at all, it usually takes months or years before any action is taken. Fortunately, an FDA response isn’t immediately necessary—one of the main goals of the petition was merely to raise awareness on the prescription drug problem in the United States.

It may take the FDA a while to move, but awareness is one of the petition’s biggest goals. Physicians hope to bring more attention to the prescription drug problem in the United States, so more medical professionals willl act judicious and cautious when administering narcotics.

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