Painkiller Prescriptions: Should Training Be Required For Doctors?
According to federal documents, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether training should be required for physicians before they could continue to write opioid painkiller prescriptions. A panel of advisers will meet this week to go over risk management policies which were introduced four years ago, in effort to reduce abuse of the drugs.
Since that time, the number of doctors who completed the voluntary training programs made available were less than 50% of those targeted by the FDA.
Under current program, drug manufacturers pay for voluntary physician training on how to safely render painkiller prescriptions. But some are saying that is not enough, and this training should be obligatory,
Only 37,500 doctors had participated in the voluntary training program by March of last year, less than half the 80,000 targeted, according to the FDA. Surveys put forth by drug manufacturers revealed that 40% of physicians were not even aware of the training programs, more than six months since their inception.
According to briefing documents online, the FDA states its findings “show mixed results that make it difficult to draw conclusions regarding the success of the program.” Findings will be presented over a 2-day meeting beginning today. The FDA will then ask its panel of safety experts what changes and improvements can be made.
The first plan was proposed in 2010, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified prescription painkiller overdoses as an epidemic.
Despite efforts by health advocates, the FDA decided to limit its focus to long-acting painkiller prescriptions, such as Opana and OxyContin. This is due to higher levels of drug ingredients, versus the more commonly used Vicodin or Norco.
Ideas to improve safety included a obligatory certification for physicians and a national registry to monitor patients who have been prescribed the drugs. However, drug manufacturers and pain groups argued that the certification programs would be too much of a strain for physicians, and would result in the undertreatment of patients. Patient advocacy groups also said that a registry could stigmatize persons with chronic pain.
In the end, the finalized plans were watered down in comparison to what they were hoping for. In addition to the optional training for doctors, patients would be given pamphlets, warning them about the risks of using prescription painkillers.
The FDA’s adviser panel turned down that final proposal, stating that it wasn’t enough to hinder abuse. The FDA countered and said that the plans were designed to address inappropriate use only, and not intentional abuse. These plans were put into effect in July, 2012.
.The FDA briefings now state that physicians should indeed to be required to undergo training before prescription registration renewal with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Requiring this, however, would also force action by Congress.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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