FDA Won't Require Painkiller Training for Docs

By McCarton Ackerman 07/10/12

Disregarding experts' advice, the FDA won't make special training in prescribing pain pills mandatory.

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Despite a panel of experts strongly recommending mandatory training in painkillers for doctors, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to disregard their advice and will not require doctors to undergo special training before prescribing addictive narcotics. The FDA's plan, announced yesterday, will require drug makers to underwrite the cost of voluntary programs aimed at teaching doctors how to best use them—but the companies won't control their content. The plan also calls for patients to receive one-page handouts about the risks and benefits of drug use. The panel of outside experts—assembled by the FDA itself in 2010, in order to address the ongoing problem of prescription drug abuse—stated that mandatory training was essential to reduce the abuse of painkillers and ensure they're prescribed appropriately. The debate has left the medical community sharply divided. Several major doctors' groups, including the American Medical Association, are opposed to mandatory training because they believe the programs would be burdensome and could reduce the number of physicians who treat pain patients. On the other hand, many pain specialists fully support it. Dr. Scott M. Fishman, a pain specialist and professor at the University of California, Davis, says: “The problem of prescription drug abuse has become so severe, I believe that the time has come to make that training mandatory,” 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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