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CDC proposes softer guidance on opioid prescriptions and doctors prescribing them

Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
Posted at 12:39 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 13:39:40-05

The nation's top public health agency is proposing changing — and in some instances, softening — guidelines for doctors prescribing opioid painkillers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's previous guidance was issued six years ago. It is credited with accelerating decreases in the kind of prescribing that ignited the worst overdose epidemic in U.S. history. But, officials say it also caused some doctors to cut off patients taking prescription painkillers too soon.

It also kept the drugs from patients who might benefit. The CDC posted a proposed update Thursday. It is intended to foster individualized care of patients.

Christopher Jones, a co-author of the draft guidance for the CDC said, “We began to hear how the guidelines were being misused and misapplied,” he told the Associated Press.

In the 1990s, some drugmakers and others proposed wider use of opioids for more common issues like backaches and arthritis.

As the Associated Press reported, in 2016 the CDC's prescribing guidance said opioids should not be the first treatment for chronic pain.

The move comes at a time when agencies and regulators appear to be signaling a move towards a softer stance on opioids in some cases, and the treatment to addiction to opioids, possibly because of various repercussions that have come from a harsher stance on them overall.

This month the U.S. Department of Justice says it found that multiple courts in Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by "prohibiting or limiting the use of disability-related medication to treat Opioid Use Disorder by individuals under court supervision."

The Justice Department issued a letter of findings which states that the state of Pennsylvania must address what it calls civil rights violations which were found during an investigation conducted by the agency's Civil Rights Division along with the U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Pennsylvania.

The department says the violations came through the actions of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania's component courts.

During the court of the department's investigation alongside state agencies, three individuals were identified and determined to have been discriminated against by multiple county courts in Pennsylvania. Two of those individuals say that courts ordered all probationers to cease use of prescribed medication meant to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). A third individual identified in the investigation, according to the Justice Department, alleged that a county court required that she stop using prescribed OUD medication in order to graduate from a drug court program.