A recent article in the New York Times notes that, over the past decade, "overdose deaths related to the abuse and misuse of long-acting narcotics have reached epidemic proportions."
Hospitals know that. Law enforcement agencies know that. Congress is well aware of it, and the Obama administration has been focused on the problem for several years.
Overdoses of opiates and other painkiller medications have increasingly brought about a consideration of the training -- or lack thereof -- possessed by many doctors who prescribe long-acting narcotics such as OxyContin, fentanyl and methadone to control patients' pain.
The view of many medical experts regarding the widespread use of strong painkillers prescribed by physicians is this: Many of those doctors are not sufficiently knowledgeable about such drugs and their effects to properly prescribe them, with the result that many medication errors occur that bring about serious -- and sometimes fatal -- outcomes.
A panel of medical experts recommended to the FDA in 2010 that doctors complete mandatory educational training before being allowed to prescribe drugs that lead easily to addiction.
The FDA has just responded to that recommendation by rejecting it and, instead, stating that it will not impose any special requirement on prescribing doctors. Rather, physician training will be voluntary, with drug makers underwriting the cost of voluntary programs.
That announcement has essentially stunned many doctors and medical experts who are close-hand observers of narcotic addiction.
The FDA's response, issued this past Monday, also seems to be anything but lauded by FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg and R. Gil Kerlikowske, the chief drug policy adviser for President Obama. Both Hamburg and Kerlikowske voiced their hope that Congress would in the future require mandatory training of prescribing doctors.
Source: New York Times, "F.D.A. won't order doctors to get pain-drug training," Barry Meier, July 9, 2012