Painkiller Crackdown Sparks Industry Blowback

Healthcare industry groups are launching a preemptive strike against soon-to-drop federal guidelines meant to tamp down on the prescription of powerful painkillers.

The forthcoming guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are meant to combat the abuse of drugs like Hyrdocodone, Oxycontin and Percocet, which many medical experts believe are dangerously overprescribed.

Prescriptions for the drugs, known as opioids, increased by 300 percent from 1999 to 2013, according to the CDC, which cites statistics showing 16,000 people died from overdoses during that time.

As currently drafted, the guidelines recommend physicians use opioids as a last resort after non-pharmacologic therapies like exercise and a lower level pain reliever like Ibuprofen have been tried, according to a copy obtained by The Hill. They do not, however, pertain to treatments for end-of-life care.

But the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is pushing back against the effort, contending that the guidelines were developed with insufficient evidence and questioning the methodology and the transparency of the entire process.

“Our concerns are so serious that we cannot endorse the proposed guidelines in any way and suggest suspending the process until the methodological flaws are corrected and more evidence is available to support prescribing recommendations,” ACS CAN’s President Christopher Hansen wrote in a letter to the CDC earlier this month after the group was asked to weigh in.