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Addiction Expert supports CDC efforts to reduce Opioid Prescriptions

LAS VEGAS – A leading addiction expert from Nevada is speaking out in support of controversial guidelines to limit opioid prescriptions for chronic pain.

The proposal from the federal Centers for Disease Control advises doctors to prescribe opioids such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin only as a last resort, and continue them only if a patient shows significant improvement. It also recommends limiting pills in some cases to a three-day supply.

Overuse leads to addiction, said Dr. Mel Pohl, medical director of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, and when the pills run out, people may turn to heroin. He added that doctors and patients need to reject the idea of a quick fix.

“Invariably what happens when people are on opioids for chronic pain is that their function goes down,” he said. “They move less, they’re depressed, their sleep is impaired, and one of the consequences is that they overdose and die.”

Pohl said he has has written to medical organizations across Nevada as part of a national group called Physicians for Responsible Opiate Prescribing. Critics have said the nonbinding guidelines are inflexible and complain that alternatives to the medications, such as yoga and physical therapy, often are not covered by insurance.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who heads the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote to the CDC last week questioning the process used to develop the guidelines. Pohl said he thinks at least some of the opposition has ulterior motives.

“There’s, of course, a substantial pushback from the pharmaceutical industry lobbies that are aiming to keep these drugs highly prescribed so that there are greater profits for the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.

The CDC now has delayed the guidelines’ release and taken the very unusual step of opening them up for public input. The public comment period ends on Jan. 13. The draft guidelines and comment page are online at regulations.gov

Author:  Suzanne Potter, Public News Service

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