Ms. Llorente has proven to be a powerful ally. She’s written several articles for the ultimate mainstream media, Fox News, that protest the treatment of chronic pain patients.
Now that both the CDC and FDA have warned against forced tapers, there’s hope that the ignorant belief that all pain patient are just addicts who shouldn’t be taking opioids will be exposed for the lie it is.
Federal agencies behind efforts to address the nation’s harrowing opioid epidemic took major steps this week to address a brewing public health crisis involving pain patients who have been wrongly cut off or abruptly tapered down from their prescription painkillers.
Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned doctors not to abruptly stop prescribing opioid painkillers to patients who are taking them for chronic debilitating pain, generally lasting more than three months.
The agency noted that chronic-pain patients who have responsibly taken opioids under medical supervision are wrongly being tapered down or abandoned by doctors who are afraid of being targeted by authorities in the current anti-opioid climate.
On its website, the agency said:
“FDA has received reports of serious harm, including serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain and suicide, in patients who are physically dependent on opioid pain medicines when these medicines are suddenly discontinued or when the dose is reduced too quickly, often without adequate patient communication, follow-up or support.”
In another significant move, the CDC has issued a clarification to its 2016 opioid prescribing guidelines, which – in contrast to the agency’s emphasis that they were not mandates – have been used to enforce strict painkiller policies at the state and federal levels
Many of the leading critics of strict measures targeting legal opioids hailed the moves by the FDA and CDC.
- “State medical boards,
- state attorneys general,
- insurance carriers,
- pharmacies, and
- the health care system
have weaponized the guidelines, and doctors have told patients that they have to take them off opioids because it’s the law,” said Schatman, who is a clinical psychologist.
Many who had been tapered down or cut off confided that they had suicide plans or had thought of suicide, and doctors who have tapered patients or dropped them told Fox News that some of them had killed themselves after becoming completely debilitated.
Pain sufferers whose painkillers were tapered or stopped included
- cancer patients,
- a double amputee with multiple health problems,
- a woman with a rare disease that causes such intense spasms they bend her backward, and
- even a man with a terminal illness who was entering a hospice facility.
Kate Nicholson, a former federal prosecutor who credits her opioid treatment with allowing her to function after years of being bedridden.
Nicholson said the move by the CDC to sound an alarm to prescribers and regulators is significant because “it’s their guidelines that have been used to apply these [misguided] policies.”
But health care experts and pain patients say that the limits are overzealous and treat all pain sufferers in a one-size-fits-all manner.
They argue that the opioid overdose epidemic is driven largely by illegal opioids – such as fentanyl and heroin – or prescription painkillers stolen from the patients who legitimately need them.
They say that legal opioids became an easy target in the fervor to respond to the overdose crisis, and that it has done nothing to solve the overdose fatality rate, which has continued to rise.
In March, the CDC received a letter signed by more than 300 medical experts, including former drug czars from the Obama, Clinton and Nixon administrations, expressing concern that the 2016 guidelines had become a tool for insurers to deny opioid coverage and for doctors to undertreat or drop pain patients.
The federal agency said doctors and patients should agree on a plan to gradually reduce their dosage, based on their treatment history, type of pain, psychological state and other factors.
The FDA stressed the importance of a customized plan,
saying no standard method “exists that is suitable for all patients.”
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.