Revising the CDC Clinical Guideline for Prescribing Opioids


Policy expert, Cindy Steinberg, of the US Pain Foundation explains the updated changes that have been proposed by the CDC to the Clinical Guideline for Prescribing Opioids.

Cindy Steinberg, Director of Policy and Advocacy, US Pain Foundation discussed the guideline revisions proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health And Human Services (HHS) for prescribing opioids for pain management.

In this interview, Steinberg detailed the impact that the originial 2016 guideline had on patients, physicians, and the nation. She addressed the notable changes that have been proposed and pointed out those that improve, and those that inhibit the guideline.

The CDC guideline is not the sole source of clinical recommendations for prescribing opioids. Steinberg was part of the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force which published a report in 2019.

A team of pain specialists joined together to create the 2019 report that focused on the experience of pain as a national public health problem guided by research-based understanding of the best approaches to managing pain.

When the CDC's updated version was published in February, the government opened the docket to obtain comments from the public for a period of 60 days, which will close on April 11, 2022. A finalized version including updated, evidence-based recommendations for clinicians can be expected toward the end of 2022.

After the release of guideline in 2016, many states used the recommendations as rules an implemented laws around them.

While the purpose of the document is to serve as a clinical tool for providers, the recommendations are voluntary. In the proposed version, the CDC emphasized that they are intended as flexible standards of care and should not replace clinical judgment or individualized, patient-centered care.

The recommendations do not apply in cases of cancer or sickle cell disease (SCD).

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