Girardi | Keese

CDC Director Wants Fewer Painkiller Prescriptions, Fewer Overdose Deaths

According to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors are prescribing painkillers "too soon, too often and for too long."

Dr. Tom Frieden believes that over-prescribing painkillers is contributing to the nation's prescription drug addiction and overdose epidemics. He argues that safer remedies should be considered before prescribing painkillers, such as physical therapy and exercise. "Prescribing an opiate may be condemning a patient to lifelong addiction and life-threatening complications," he warned.

His comments are supported by multiple studies showing an increasing number of prescription drug overdose deaths. According to one study by the Los Angeles Times, there were more than 3,7000 overdose deaths in Southern California between 2006 and 2011, and half of those deaths involved legally prescribed drugs.

Which raises the question: Who is to blame? The doctors? The medical profession, which teaches some doctors that opiate painkillers are not addicting to pain sufferers? Prescription drug companies, who encourage physicians to prescribe the drugs? The government, for failing to better regulate pain killer prescriptions?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently debating whether to better regulate narcotic painkiller marketing and prescriptions. Officials around the country, as well as some doctors, support stricter requirements for the prescription of narcotic painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Yet, regulatory action is slow and, as addiction doctor Andrew Kolodny asked the Los Angeles Times, "how many people will have to die or become addicted before they finally listen?"

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Doctors Prescribe Narcotics Too Often For Pain, CDC Chief Says," Lisa Girion, Scott Glover, July 2, 2013

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