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Officials want 7-day cap on opioids

Wednesday, November 01, 2017
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Officials want 7-day cap on opioidsCommentsEmailPrint

Greg Hinz on Politics

Photo by Bloomberg

In an unusual bipartisan move, the heads of three of the biggest Chicago-area governments are asking major medical groups to step up pressure on their members to generally limit opioid prescriptions to no more than seven days at a time.

In a joint letter—you can read it below—Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin called the level of opioid addiction "intolerable" and declared, "It is time for you and your members to take bold action to stop the rampant over-prescribing and abuse of pharmaceutical opioids."

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Emanuel and Preckwinkle are Democrats; Cronin is a Republican. The letter was sent to the Chicago-based American Medical Association and American Dental Association, and to the American Pharmacists Association in Washington.

The letter says there were at least 1,091 deaths from opioid overdose in Cook County last year, a 69 percent hike from the prior year. Driving the trend is abuse of fentanyl, with deaths from that drug up nearly 446 percent year over year.

DuPage reported more than 200 deaths in 2015, with use of fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with heroin skyrocketing last year.

"And these grim statistics do not begin to capture the more widespread misery caused by opioid addiction: the unemployment and other economic hardships, the tearing of the family fabric and the increased stress on support agencies," the letter says. Many of those agencies are run by the three governments, with Cook County's Stroger Hospital picking up a big share of the medical costs.

The letter goes on to note that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention last year issued guidelines saying that a three-day prescription usually will be sufficient to control pain, and that use for more than a week is rarely needed.

It concludes, "We now ask (that) you take this work to the next level . . . by calling on all of your members to adopt a policy limiting opioid prescribing to no more than seven days for acute pain." However, the letter does not recommend any alternatives to opioids for those with long-term pain, with research on such options now only in the preliminary stage.

The medical groups had no immediate comment, and they have only limited power over their members. But they are influential in various medical licensing boards, which do have the power to act.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, also has been particularly involved on opioid matters, sponsoring legislation to expand treatment and education and, earlier this week, hosting a roundtable on what to do about the problem.

Letter to medical community by AnnRWeiler on Scribd

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