CDC Releases Updated Draft Guidance on Opioid Prescribing

By Medscape Staff

February 10, 2022

The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) has released a draft update of its current Clinical Practice Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for pain management — and is asking for public comment before moving forward.

The last guidance on this topic was released in 2016 and, among other things, noted that clinicians should be cautious when considering increasing dosage of opioids to 50 or more morphine milligram equivalents (MME)/day and should avoid increasing to a dose of 90 or more MME/day. It also noted that 3 days or less "will often be sufficient" regarding the quantity of lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids to be prescribed for acute pain — and that more than 7 days "will rarely be needed."

In the new report, from the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), those dose limits have been replaced with the suggestion that clinicians use their best judgement — albeit still urging conservative use and even the possibility of non-opioid treatments.

The updated recommendations are now open for public comment via the Federal Register's website through April 11.

"This comment period provides another critical opportunity for diverse audiences to offer their perspective on the draft clinical practice guideline," Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, DrPH, acting director for the NCIPC, said in a release.

"We want to hear many voices from the public, including people living with pain and healthcare providers who help their patients manage pain," Jones added.

Outpatient Recommendations

The CDC noted that the updated guidance provides "evidence-based recommendations" for treatment of adults with acute, subacute, or chronic pain. It does not include guidance for managing pain related to sickle cell disease, cancer, or palliative care.

It is aimed at primary care clinicians and others who manage pain in an outpatient setting, including in dental and postsurgical practices and for those discharging patients from emergency departments. It does not apply to inpatient care.

The draft guidance includes 12 recommendations focused on four key areas:

  • Helping clinicians determine whether or not to initiate opioid treatment for pain

  • Opioid selection and dosage

  • Duration of use and follow-up

  • Assessing risk and addressing potential harms from use

The overall aim "is to ensure people have access to safe, accessible, and effective pain management that improves their function and quality of life while illuminating and reducing risks associated with prescription opioids, and ultimately reducing the consequences of prescription opioid misuse and overdose," the CDC notes.

In addition, the guidance itself "is intended to be a clinical tool to improve communication between providers and patients and empower them to make informed, patient-centered decisions," the agency said in a press release.

It added that the new recommendations "are not intended to be applied as inflexible standards of care." Rather, it is intended as a guide to support healthcare providers in their clinical decision-making as they provide individualized patient care.

Patients, caregivers, and providers are invited to submit comments over the next 60 days through the Federal Register docket.

"It is vitally important to CDC that we receive, process, and understand public feedback during the guideline update process," the agency noted.

"The ultimate goal of this clinical practice guideline is to help people set and achieve personal goals to reduce their pain and improve their function and quality of life. Getting feedback from the public is essential to achieving this goal," Jones said.

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