Balance, Pain, Palliative Care

CDC recognizes Methadone’s role in Prescription Opioid deaths


It is heartening to see the CDC dig deeper into understanding the real cause of prescription opioid associated deaths in the United States.  In a new Vital Signs released this week, the CDC states “methadone has played a central role in the epidemic.” Some of the facts:

-30% of opioid assoc deaths involve methadone but it makes up only 2% of the deaths

-Opioid deaths associated with methadone increased six times over the last decade.

-40% of opioid associated death involving a single prescription painkiller involved methadone, twice as many as any other opioid.

As identified by the Seattle Times, many insurance plans, including Washington State Medicaid and the Veterans Administration have been recommending if not mandating the use of methadone as a generic and cheap opioid.  Most clinicians have little education in its use.

This is a generic compound and it really does become responsibility of each health care professional and their health case system to ensure how to prescribe methadone appropriately in the appropriate person.

This is not the end of the story. This represents exactly with type of analysis that helps us understand the problem of opioid associated deaths.  There are too many deaths, and understanding the dilemmas fully will move us to a more balanced situation, allowing those for whom opioids are needed for pain relief to receive them while reducing the risk of abuse and diversion.

Even though the opening sentences continues to use the word “responsible” rather than “associated,” lets give kudos to the CDC for this report.

Appreciate your comments…..

jfcleary

About Pain policy & palliative care

Improving global pain relief by achieving balanced access to opioids worldwide

Discussion

2 thoughts on “CDC recognizes Methadone’s role in Prescription Opioid deaths

  1. as a journalist, new to the topic tho not new to pain medication and the problems associated with getting appropriate care (in the US – very different in the UK) – I’m confused about why methadone per se is the culprit – it is because it’s given as a means to wean people off a stronger drug? (heroin) which is considered more deadly? who is doing the prescribing for methadone? or has it become a street drug? clarify? thanks.

    Posted by Erica Rex | July 9, 2012, 12:54 PM
  2. The CDC is reporting only deaths for those for whom methadone was prescribed for pain. So this does not include the use of methadone for the treatment of addiction. As outlined in the CDC information sheet, it is a difficult drug to use because of its pharmacologies and has toxicities including impact on the heart. While is has and continues to be used as a “street” drug, this is not the major issue. Many physicians with inadequate education on using Methadone who wish to prescribe an opioid are required to prescribe it by insurance companies and health care systems. Interestingly no pharmaceutical company has been supporting the use of methadone.
    Most importantly, the CDC is releasing evidence on the opioid death situation in the US in a meaningful way rather than making broad statements about the risk of clinical opioid use without supporting data. This is very helpful as we seek to ensure an balanced approach to opioid access.
    jfclearywisc

    Posted by Pain policy & palliative care | July 9, 2012, 10:13 PM

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