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New CDC opioid guidelines could harm patients

Wisconsin readers may be interested to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new draft guidelines for opioid prescribing. However, some patient advocates fear that the rules are more concerned with avoiding patient drug addiction than with providing quality care.

Advocates claim that the CDC opioid prescription guidelines overstate the addiction risk of opioid use and ignore the legitimate pain management needs of patients, which is tantamount to institutionalized medical malpractice. They believe doctors are moving toward an overly conservative prescribing model that will expose patients to a lifetime of needless pain.

According to CDC statistics, prescription drug overdose is not among the top 15 leading causes of death in the U.S. each year. However, the third-largest cause of injury, illness and death to patients is medical malpractice. Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, prescription errors, wrong-site surgeries, failure to rescue, hospital-acquired infections and other medical mistakes harm thousands of patients annually. Advocates fear opioid withholding will become another area where patients are regularly failed by the health care industry.

Patient advocates believe a better approach to pain management is for doctors to review each patient's case individually and realize that not all patients can be "cured" of pain. The goal should be to return the patient to the best function possible, not to arbitrarily cut them off from the opioid that makes that possible. Some patients will require pain medication for the rest of their lives.

Wisconsin residents who have been the victim of medical malpractice, including medication errors, may benefit by speaking with an attorney. In some cases, it may be advisable to file a lawsuit against the responsible doctor and/or hospital seeking compensation for the damages that have been sustained.

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