A group of doctors has sent a petition to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to place new restrictions on the requirements for prescribing opioid painkiller drugs. The petition requests that the FDA restrict the prescription of these potent painkillers for use only with cancer patients or patients with severe pain, and to limit how much and for how long patients can be treated with these drugs.
The doctors’ concern about the use of opioid painkillers stems from the increased risk of overdose or death that can result when these drugs are prescribed improperly. Despite their powerful painkilling effects, opioids are often prescribed by doctors with limited experience in administering these drugs to patients, putting users at risk of serious side effects.
Even when opioid painkillers are properly prescribed, they can cause an overdose or death due to the extreme potency of these drugs. Thousands of patients die each year as a result of an overdose caused by drugs such as the fentanyl pain patch (Duragesic), morphine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid).
The FDA petition sent by the group of doctors would further restrict the use of narcotic painkillers from the current minimum criteria of patients with “moderate” or worse pain to patients with “severe” pain, or patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. Although doctors would still be able to prescribe these drugs off-label, a stronger warning from the FDA could have a significant effect on the number of deaths that are caused by painkiller overdoses.