Painkiller abuse education part of FDA plan

The FDA is asking companies that make painkillers to create educational materials, written in simple language, on how to safely use and throw away opiates as part of the government’s new effort to curtail prescription drug abuse.

Opiate-drug makers will also have to propose a plan in 120 days on how they will train doctors to manage pain and screen patients, the FDA announced Tuesday.

Certain drugs the companies sell are being abused— a lot, says the FDA in a consumer update:

“FDA experts say extended-release and long-acting opioids—including OxyContin, Avinza, Dolophine, Duragesic and eight other brand names—are extensively misprescribed, misused, and abused, leading to overdoses, addiction and even deaths across the United States.”


We don’t know what will end up in the safety materials, but the American Pain Foundation has a few pointers for what doctors should be telling their patients. Among the long list:

-Don’t mix pain medication with alcohol; mixing with sedative or anti-anxiety medications can be dangerous too.

-Don’t take a medication unless it’s prescribed for you, and don’t take more doses than prescribed.

-Don’t drive until you’ve got a drug’s side effects under control. Patients can safely operate a car once their dose is stable over two or three weeks, studies suggest.

-Lock up. Teach patients to treat their pain medication like their jewelry or financial information —safely put away, not in a medicine cabinet or on the kitchen counter. Children, pets and other people in the household could accidentally or intentionally take them—about 70% of people who abuse opiates get them from a friend or family member, knowingly or unknowingly.

-Do look for a past history of addiction. The American Pain Foundation says:

“Many people are fearful of becoming addicted to pain medications, but studies and clinical practice have shown that this is unlikely in patients who do not have a history of compulsive or addictive behaviors.”

But sometimes people with no addictive disposition might get addicted on opiates, says the APF:

“Some people without apparent risk may develop addiction that is unmasked by exposure to an abusable medication; however, this is less likely to occur for the first time among older patients because most tendencies toward addiction will have been expressed already.”

They advise that doctors should assess for risk of abuse before opioid therapy begins.