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CDC Clarifies Guideline on Opioid Prescribing for Chronic Pain

FRIDAY, April 12, 2019 -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has clarified that the new guideline on prescribing opioids for chronic pain is not meant to limit access to appropriate pain management, according to a letter issued to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Noting that payers have been using the guideline inappropriately to make opioid coverage determinations for patients with active cancer and sickle cell disease, these organizations approached the CDC for clarification on the opioid prescribing guideline.

According to the letter from the CDC, the guideline is not intended to deny opioid therapy as an option for pain management for any patients who suffer from chronic pain, particularly those undergoing cancer treatment, cancer survivors with chronic pain, and individuals with painful complications of sickle cell disease. Rather, it aims to ensure that clinicians and patients consider all safe and effective treatment options. According to the CDC, the relationship between the clinician and patient should form the basis of clinical decision making, with an understanding of the patient's clinical situation, functioning, and life context as well as careful consideration of the risks and benefits associated with treatment options.

"CDC encourages physicians to continue to use their clinical judgement and base treatment on what they know about their patients, including use of opioids if determined to be the best course of treatment," Deborah Dowell, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer of the CDC, writes in the letter.

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Posted: April 2019


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