Jan 31, 2017

By Jane Brown

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New national standards for prescribing painkillers do not address treating patients with acute pain, after Health Canada rejected a request to expand the scope.

Some medical experts say Canada has little hope of reversing its deadly opioid epidemic if it does not stop the surge of people becoming addicted to the drugs. They say the way to do that is be reducing opioid use at the beginning of a case, when a patient is in acute pain.

The guidelines released yesterday by the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre at McMaster University to not detail how opiods should be prescribed for acute pain, focusing instead on treating chronic pain.  Chronic pain is described as anything that persists longer than three months.

Many people with chronic pain begin their experience with opioids after an acute pain episode when they receive painkillers without clear instructions on how to get off the drugs as soon as possible.

The revised guidelines recommend that doctors restrict a patient’s dose to less than the equivalent of 50 milligrams of morphine a day and avoid increasing doses to more than 90 milligrams.

David Juurling is the head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and also a member of the steering committee. He says “the guidelines will dramatically improve the care of patients with chronic pain, and there are bound to be people who are unhappy with one aspect of the guidelines or another.”

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