War on Opioid Abuse Is Striking the Wrong Target

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Prescription drugs help people in pain. They aren’t to blame for the rise in opioid deaths.

By Ramesh Ponnuru Bloomberg

Patients in pain have become collateral damage in the war on opioids.

That’s the message of a letter from more than 300 medical professionals, including three former White House drug czars, to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2016, the CDC issued guidelines to discourage doctors from overprescribing opioids. The signatories believe that those guidelines are being misapplied in a way that keeps many patients in agony.

Among policymakers, however, the focus is still on cracking down on prescriptions. Thirty-three states had imposed some type of limit on opioid prescriptions by last October. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado are pushing for a federal limit. Under their legislation, initial prescriptions for acute pain could cover no more than seven days and include no refills.

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