On October 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new opioid prescribing guidelines for patients with chronic pain. These guidelines offer clinical considerations for prescribers who feel it is appropriate to taper a patient off their long-term opioid analgesic medications, which has become a concern for the nearly 100 million Americans who are suffering from chronic pain and rely on opioids to manage their condition. Notably, the guidelines caution against tapering or discontinuing opioid treatment if opioid use is warranted and urges doctors to consider each patient’s unique situation when formulating a treatment approach.
Many patients have been wrongfully tapered off their medications or abandoned by their doctor altogether due to concerns about overprescribing the medications following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) overly restrictive prescribing guidelines, which were issued in 2016. Treatment abandonment and tapering are also caused by practitioners’ fears of being prosecuted for overprescribing. These new guidelines offer hope for pain patients who have been unable to access their medications following the CDC’s 2016 guidelines.