Survey Finds Most Doctors Favor CDC Guidelines

By Pat Anson, Editor

Chronic pain patients and their doctors appear to be on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to controversial guidelines for opioid prescribing being drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An email survey of over 1,600 doctors found that 87 percent of them “would welcome and use” the CDC guidelines, which discourage primary care physicians from prescribing opioids for chronic pain. The survey was conducted by SERMO, a social network for healthcare providers.

Less than six out of ten doctors (59%) believe opioids should be used to treat chronic non-cancer pain. About half said they knew someone personally who has suffered from addiction to opioids.  

In personal comments, several doctors said they believed some patients were “doctor shopping” for opioids.

“It is often impossible to know whether a patient is drug seeking, and it's hard to deny them pain meds simply because my gut tells me so,” wrote one oncologist.

“I am frequently approached by patients with ‘acute’ complaints of pain. Since these patients are usually unknown to me, it is difficult to tell if these are truly ‘acute’ issues versus drug seeking,” said an urgent care physician.

“While there are some patients that need pain medications there are several that have now become addicted and I think physicians need more training in not only how to prescribe pain meds properly but also how to cut back appropriately as well,” wrote an internal medicine specialist.

“Physicians are the gateways to drugs. They have the prescription pad and ultimately they are the ones who make the call. They should be at the frontline of this epidemic and adequate education is required,” said a neurologist.

Asked what they thought was the “most important tactic" to curb opioid abuse, this is how doctors voted:

  • 43% of doctors support broader use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)
  • 20% support more education for physicians on proper opioid prescribing
  • 14% support increased access to addiction treatment programs
  • 14% support more education for patients at risk of addiction
  • 7% support increased access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose
  • 2% support needle exchange programs

A large majority of doctors (82%) favor PDMP’s, but only 63% said they were registered with their state’s PDMP.

A survey of over 2,000 patients by Pain News Network and the Power of Pain Foundation found very different attitudes about the CDC’s opioid guidelines. Nearly 90% are worried they won’t be able to get opioid pain medication if the guidelines are adopted. A similar number believe the guidelines discriminate against pain patients and will be harmful to them.