State Attorneys General Urge FDA to Adopt Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids
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State Attorneys General Urge FDA to Adopt Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids

January 18, 2016

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and 34 of his peers called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would provide more direction for medical professional who prescribe pain medication.

Cooper and the other Attorneys General expressed their support for the guidelines with a letter outlining the need for improved methods of prescribing opioid pain killers, which have been responsible for an increasing number of drug overdose deaths and exacerbating an ongoing problem with heroin.

The letter states that medical providers, particularly pediatricians and family care physicians, don't have clear guidance on when and how they should be prescribing opioids for pain. Some prescribe them when they aren't needed, or don't prescribe them when they are.

"It gives doctors the knowledge and confidence to prescribe opioids when appropriate, and to more safely manage patients on opioids" says the letter. "The Guidelines also recognize that opioids remain an important tool for responding to extreme or intractable pain."

A 2013 report from the North Carolina Division of Public Health, found that more than 1,000 people in the state die from prescription drug overdoses each year. According to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2014 there were about 18,900 opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. , which amounts to a 369 percent increase since 1999.

Prescription drugs cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.

A December 2015 report from the CDC says that increases in both prescription opioid and heroin deaths are the biggest driver of the drug overdose epidemic. Heroin overdoses have tripled since 2010. The connection between prescription painkillers and heroin has been apparent for quite some time. Those addicted to painkillers often move on to heroin because it's stronger, cheaper, and easier to obtain than prescription drugs.

"Opioid misuse and abuse affects thousands of lives each year in North Carolina and across the country," Cooper said in a written statement. "Safer, stricter guidelines for prescribing painkillers can help save lives."

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