Hinder Opiate Abuse: FDA Beefs up Efforts

Prescription pain pills are important pain medications that are widely prescribed for chronic pain. These drugs provide significant benefits for patients when used properly for their approved indications. However, these drugs also carry a risk of abuse, misuse and death. More than 15,500 people died in the United States in 2009 after overdosing on narcotic pain relievers. That's a 300 percent increase over the last 20 years. Now trying to hinder opiate abuse, the FDA is beefing up their efforts.

The FDA is extremely concerned about the inappropriate use of these drugs, which has become a major public health challenge for the US. The FDA has a difficult time striking a balance between their benefit in treating patients with moderate to severe pain and the risks associated with misuse, abuse and addiction to those patients and to others.

Combating opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction has long been a priority for the Agency, and FDA has taken many steps to address this problem over the last few decades. The FDA has established a task force to build upon existing initiatives and develop new ones.

Better labeling, better education is just a small start to a big problem.

Current efforts include drug development, opioid labeling, prescriber education, patient education, and storage to prevent abuse. Physicians and regulators need more information about whether, and how, opioids should be used for treating chronic pain. One important FDA effort in reducing abuse and misuse is encouraging the development of opioids that are specifically formulated to deter abuse. FDA has made many changes to opioid medication labels in an effort to improve their use.

The FDA intends to reach out to key members of the health care professional community to find out what they are doing to combat this problem and whether FDA can do anything to help them with their efforts. It is essential that prescribers help their patients by educating them about the appropriate use of these powerful drugs. FDA has created materials to help educate patients on how to use opioids.

The FDA is involved in a variety of activities aimed at improving the use of opioid medications in the United States. Opioid abuse is complex and these problems require the combined efforts of federal, state and local agencies as well as the commitment of health care professionals, patients and addiction/pain specialists.