While America’s addiction crisis may fade from the headlines, it still rages on. But getting Kansas and surrounding states on the right track to stem the tide of addictions and tragic overdoses requires sound policy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently has in place a Guideline that encourages physicians to prescribe a Schedule II long-acting opioid for first time pain intervention over Schedule III alternatives. That means patients are immediately closed off to alternative options that could greatly reduce the risk of substance abuse.
The current CDC Guideline is yet another obstacle to combating the nationwide opioid epidemic and squeezes patients seeking treatment and therapy for chronic pain into a one-size-fits-all box.
When a patient seeks out treatment for chronic pain, should they not have a full set of options to choose from? Too often patients are underserved by arbitrary rules and regulations that while intended to improve care, result in the opposite. Policy should not function as unnecessary barrier for crucial treatment options, especially for chronic pain management.
The reality is that current CDC Guideline does the opposite of what policy makers intended to achieve while patients and countless communities across the United States suffer the consequences.
At a time when more than 1 in 5 Americans have an opioid prescription, policy needs to reflect patients’ needs, not special interests’ demands. Recent data depicts a grim picture, with nearly 40 Americans dying each day after taking prescription opioids in 2018, according to the CDC.
And experts have noted that American deaths from legal pain medicines significantly exceed those dying from illegal substances such as heroin, a crisis that has plagued Kansas for too long with 345 deaths from drug overdoses in 2018 alone.
A pragmatic approach to how clinicians prescribe medication for chronic pain must include what is best for patients and flexibility for physicians to make smart decisions on treatment.
The ongoing addiction crisis does not have any individual easy solution. But there are smart, effective changes to be implemented that can dramatically reduce the known risks associated with Schedule II acting opioids and applying a universal standard for patients.
There are already well thought out and forward-thinking recommendations, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2019 Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force Report.
Guidelines for pain management and pain management therapies should help embolden patients and their physicians instead of creating unnecessary obstacles that put people at risk while creating even more problems.
Moving in the direction of progress while potentially tamping down on the added risks of substance abuse from certain pain medications is the prudent and moral course of action.
Changing the CDC’s Guideline could accomplish that goal.
Phil Hermanson is a former state representative and Kansas inspector general.