New recommendations for prescribing painkillers show concern

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jul 11, 2014 4:09 AM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

(Harrisburg) -- New guidelines in Pennsylvania for prescribing painkillers to patients with chronic pain show a level of concern over the potential abuse of the drugs, but the recommendations are only voluntary.

The state Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Health developed the list with the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Under the guidelines, patients with chronic conditions besides cancer shouldn't just be prescribed a painkiller to eliminate discomfort.

Instead, painkillers should be part of a comprehensive plan, and their efficiency should be evaluated frequently.

That's just the start of the recommendations, which adopt a very cautious tone towards prescribing opioids.

Bruce MacLeod, President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, says doctors want the best for their patients, even if it means telling them no.

"I certainly have done that. And we also know through some other studies, sometimes doctors think, well the patient just wants antibiotics or just wants pain medicines."

MacLeod says research shows patients want to be informed and part of the decision-making process.

The team that developed the document also wanted to make sure their work didn't just sit on a doctor's desk.

"This has to be something that can be digested by busy physicians," says MacLeod.

"This could be something that you could actually distribute to patients, this could be readable. So they made some stylistic as well as content decisions as well."

It's expected the guidelines will lead to fewer prescriptions for painkillers.

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