FDA to expand opioid labeling with instructions on proper tapering


The Food and Drug Administration is making changes to opioid analgesic labeling to give better information to clinicians on how to properly taper patients dependent on opioid use, according to Douglas Throckmorton, MD, deputy director for regulatory programs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

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The FDA has recently received reports that patients physically dependent on opioid pain medicines who are taken off their medication too quickly have experienced serious adverse events, such as withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain, and suicide. Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer guidelines on how to properly taper opioids, Dr. Throckmorton said, but more needs to be done to ensure that patients are being provided with the correct advice and care.

The changes to the labels will include expanded information to health care clinicians and are intended to be used when both the clinician and patient have agreed to reduce the opioid dosage. When this is discussed, factors that should be considered include the dose of the drug, the duration of treatment, the type of pain being treated, and the physical and psychological attributes of the patient.

Other actions the FDA is pursuing to combat opioid use disorder include working with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on guidelines for the proper opioid analgesic prescribing for acute pain resulting from specific conditions or procedures, and advancing policies that make immediate-release opioid formulations available in fixed-quantity packaging for 1 or 2 days.

“The FDA remains committed to addressing the opioid crisis on all fronts, with a significant focus on decreasing unnecessary exposure to opioids and preventing new addiction; supporting the treatment of those with opioid use disorder; fostering the development of novel pain treatment therapies and opioids more resistant to abuse and misuse; and taking action against those involved in the illegal importation and sale of opioids,” Dr. Throckmorton said.

Find the full statement by Dr. Throckmorton on the FDA website.

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