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A Proactive Response to Prescription Opioid Abuse

A recent special report indicated that in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated almost 19,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States were associated with prescription opioids.  This special report was written by physicians employed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In this report, the FDA discusses how they are launching a renewed effort to cope with the national epidemic of prescription opioid misuse.  Examples of some ideas and/or actions put forth include:

  • Creating clear guidelines for opioid use: As discussed in this report, the problem of misuse will continue until prescribing physicians have a clear and consistent understanding of the appropriate use and management of prescription opioids. As a result, the FDA supports the CDC’s guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain control, which will soon be finalized. In addition, they support the Surgeon General’s efforts to work with clinicians to reduce inappropriate prescribing and treat opioid addiction.
  • Prioritizing abuse-deterrent formulations and overdose treatments: The FDA indicates they will continue to support the development of abuse-deterrent opioid formulations. In addition, they indicate their support for considering ways to make naloxone more widely available, including as an over-the-counter medication.
  • Reviewing labeling and postmarketing surveillance requirements: The FDA is revising postmarketing requirements to require drug companies to provide better evidence on the risks of misuse associated with long-term opioid use, predictors of opioid addiction, as well as improved data on other safety concerns.

Take Away: If you are involved in the prevention, intervention, or treatment of prescription opioid misuse in your campus community, you may wish to read this special report in its entirety.  As the FDA puts forth new ideas and actions, it may provide an opportunity to reflect on your university’s own action plan to prevent and treat prescription opioid misuse.


Califf, R. M., Woodcock, J., & Ostroff, S. (2016). A proactive response to prescription opioid abuse. New England Journal of Medicine374(15), 1480-1485.

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