Opioid prescribing in the United States before and after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2016 opioid guideline.
The opioid epidemic continues to be a pressing patient safety challenge in the United States. Many efforts have been implemented to curb opioid prescribing, such as policy initiatives and targeted feedback to individual clinicians. A major initiative was the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids for patients with chronic pain. These guidelines (which do not apply to patients with cancer or patients receiving palliative care) called for initially using nonopioid medications and nonpharmacologic approaches to chronic pain before using opioids, prescribing immediate-release instead of long-acting medications, and avoiding use of other sedating medications. This study examined trends in opioid prescribing rates before and after the CDC guidelines were released. Investigators found that opioid prescribing overall has decreased between 2012 and 2017, but the rate of decline increased after dissemination of the CDC guidelines. Perhaps the most notable finding is that the number of high-dose opioid prescriptions declined by nearly 50% over the study period (from 683 to 356 prescriptions per 100,000 adults). An Annual Perspective discussed the causes and potential solutions to opioid overprescribing.