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FDA To Force Doctors To Learn Of Addiction, Overdose Risks From Painkillers

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might require doctors to go through a “mandatory provider education” program on the risks of addiction and death from opioids.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday the agency is working on doing more to directly address the opioid epidemic, particularly what can be done to reduce risks in the doctors office. The FDA plans to update and release the best pain management methods, to help physicians and pharmacists prescribe powerful medications in a safer way, reports NBC News.

The agency is considering forcing doctors and providers to go through an updated educational program on the safety profile, abuse risks and proper prescribing guidelines for opioid painkillers.

“We’re actively exploring the question of whether, in the future, there should be mandatory provider education,” Gottlieb told NBC News. “I’ve asked my FDA colleagues to take a fresh look at what more we can do to confront this challenge and change the trajectory of the epidemic of addition afflicting our nation. We need to make sure we strike a careful balance between access and safety while taking more vigorous steps to combat the epidemic.”

Gottlieb said doctors need to be more cautious in prescribing opioid painkillers and try alternative treatments more often. The FDA also says prescribing practices for treatments requiring opioids must be reformed to better prevent addiction.

“When opioid prescriptions are written, they should be done so for shorter durations of use,” Gottlieb told NBC News. “I believe there are still too many 30-day prescriptions being written for conditions like dental procedures or minor surgery, which should require very short-term use, if they require an opioid prescription at all.”

Officials at the FDA are stepping up their efforts in fighting abuse of approved medication. For the first time in history, the FDA ordered a drug maker to pull a medication off the market June 8 due to widespread reports of abuse. Endo Pharmaceuticals announced the decision to comply with the FDA request July 6 following an internal review of the drug.

The unprecedented move came in the wake of reports patients were crushing up the pills to inject. Representatives for Endo said they stand by the safety profile of Opana ER and believe the benefits outweigh the risks. They say the pill is safe and effective when administered properly, but will comply and work with the FDA on the issue.

Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death for Americans under 50. The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016.

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