The pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and market OxyContin, Vicodin, and other highly addictive opioid painkillers — drugs that have fueled the epidemic of overdoses and heroin addiction — are funding nonprofit groups fighting furiously against efforts to reform how these drugs are prescribed.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was close to finalizing voluntary prescribing guidelines for opioid painkillers next month, it abruptly changed course. According to a report from the Associated Press, the CDC was forced to “abandoned its January target date, instead opening the guidelines to public” comment after a number of “industry-funded groups like the U.S. Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Management warn[ed] that the CDC guidelines could block patient access to medications.”
The new guidelines would encourage doctors to prescribe opioids as a last choice for chronic pain, a sharp departure from the status quo, in which many doctors, under pressure from pharmaceutical sales representatives, often prescribe painkillers for mild back pain or a toothache. As experts note, many painkiller and heroin addicts start abusing opioids after receiving a legitimate prescription for pain-related medical issues.