As part of the federal governments desperate plan to put a leash on the opioid crisis, responsible for turning a large majority of the United States population into a legion of pill-popping junkies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a plan that will force more painkiller producers to provide training for the health care community.
According to a report from CNN, the FDA has expanded its training requirements beyond the makers of extended-release opioids to include those pharmaceutical companies in the businesses of manufacturing “short-acting” pain medications. The new rule will force these companies to train physicians, nurses and pharmacists on how to properly assess a patient’s need for a narcotic painkiller and even when to offer alternative treatments.
The agency said it was updating its policy since 90 percent of the 200 million opioids prescribed in this country are for short-acting medications, like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
The idea is to make the professionals involved in the prescription process better aware that these types of drugs come with just as many health risks as the extended forms.
“America is simply awash in immediate-release opioid products,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said during his recent announcement on the policy change. “Many people who become addicted to opioids will eventually move on to seek higher-dose formulations of these drugs or illicit street drugs, which are increasingly the low-cost alternatives.”
During a two-day meeting held this week by the FDA, a panel of experts gathered to discuss just how short-acting opioids, sometimes referred to as “abuse–deterrent” because they cannot be melted down for injection, might be contributing to the addiction and overdose problem.
In the end, the consensus was that the term “abuse-deterrent” might be giving medical personnel a false sense of security for the safety of the drugs.
“We don’t want to improperly convey a perception that a product that’s resistant to manipulation and abuse is somehow also less prone to fueling addiction when that’s simply not true,” Gottlieb said.
Some of the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 33,000 people died in 2015 as a result of an opioid overdose. The report indicates that more than half of these casualties were due to prescription painkillers.
Sadly, the mortality rate is expected to keep climbing, as there are now more than 2 million American citizens hooked on these medications.
Data released last week from the CDC shows that while prescriptions for opioids are showing signs of slowing down, doctors are still prescribing way too many of these drugs to even begin to get a grip on the problem.
Under the guidance of Gottlieb, the FDA has been exploring the possibility of strong-arming doctors into entering a mandatory training program before they can prescribe opioids. Groups like the American Medical Association have vehemently opposed this concept because they feel the method is too “one-size-fits-all” to do any good.
The FDA recently called for the elimination of a popular extended-release opioid called Opana ER. The drug has been connected to high rates of abuse in the Midwest.
This was the first time the agency has ever pleaded with a drug maker to pull one of its products from the market. Since then, the manufacturer (Endo Pharmaceuticals) has agreed to comply.