By R Carter
Trump Administration will reduce length of opioid prescriptions for Federal Employees said Trump administration officials on Monday. The government’s employee health program, which covers nine million workers, retirees, and family members, will tighten its rules for prescribing opioid pain relievers beginning this fall. The move is not aimed at patients with intractable pain from diseases such as cancer but is geared toward preventing over-prescribing to people who might just need the drugs for a short period of time, such as after surgery. Under the new policy, the initial prescription will be for a 7-day supply, instead of up to 30 days. Patients will be able get up to three refills of seven days apiece. Formal reauthorization that involves consulting a clinical professional will be required every 28 days.
Despite the fact that in the ten years since opioid overdose deaths have risen, there’s no definitive data for connecting the dots between opioid prescribing, opioid abuse and overdose. Yet government officials and public health continue their efforts at restricting opioid prescribing based on this premise.
This could change in the future with the adoption now by 48 states, of prescription drug monitoring programs. Data from PDMP’s can now be cross referenced with opioid overdoses to specifically match those overdose victims with a prescription if one exists.
Ohio has already started this effort and the results, while not a definite trend, appears to contradict the popular belief that opioid prescribing and overdose deaths are linked, see chart 2 on this post. Furthermore, about 80% of those who overdose on prescription opioids, also have as many as six other drugs in their system at the time of death, most often heroin, fentanyl and cocaine.
Cross referencing opioid overdoses with PDMP data is the only reliable way to specifically answer the question of what role prescription opioid play in the opioid overdose crisis and should become a mandatory element in determining what legislation if any should be enacted for restricting access to pain medications.