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Law & the Courts

The War on Prescription Opioids: An Update

As I noted in a recent column, medical professionals have expressed increasing concern that a crackdown on prescription opioids has gone too far, causing needless suffering for patients even as opioid abuse has become more and more about heroin and fentanyl. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have now clarified that they are not endorsing “mandated or abrupt dose reduction or discontinuation.” Let’s hope this good sense makes its way to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, pharmacy chains, state medical boards, and others who influence care.

Including politicians. Yesterday, speaking at a forum on opioid abuse, Joe Biden said that the one thing he wished people knew is that painkillers are highly addictive, adding, “A little pain is not bad.” According to Delaware Online, he also “said the country ‘can’t deal with this crisis’ without looking at the hundreds of millions of dollars drug companies spend advertising these drugs and the ‘willy nilly’ prescriptions written by many U.S. doctors.”

As I noted in my column, prescriptions for opioids have been dropping rapidly for several years now even as the death toll from opioids has kept rising — and pain patients actually have a low rate of addiction. Don’t avoid taking them under medical supervision because of advice from Dr. Joe.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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