CDC Clarifies Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Cancer Patients and Others Living with Chronic Pain

April 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – April 10, 2019 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a clarification to its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain (Guideline) yesterday, noting the 2016 guidance is not meant to restrict access to appropriate pain treatment for people living with chronic pain from certain serious conditions like cancer. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) has worked extensively over the last several years to shed light on the unintended consequences of the 2016 Guideline and the adverse impact it has had on cancer patients and survivors who have legitimate needs for opioid-based pain care.  

CDC’s clarifying letter notes, “The Guideline is not intended to deny any patients who suffer with chronic pain from opioid therapy as an option for pain management.” Yet data released last year by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) showed that since the CDC issued its 2016 Guideline, cancer patients, survivors and others living with serious chronic pain experienced greater difficulty accessing their needed pain medication. Nearly half of cancer patients (48%) and more than half of those with other serious illnesses (56%) surveyed said their doctor indicated treatment options for their pain were limited by laws, guidelines or insurance coverage.

The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN:

“ACS CAN and our partners in the patient quality of life community have long advocated for this important clarification from the CDC and we applaud the agency for articulating the explanation to its 2016 Guideline. Access to appropriate pain management is incredibly important to cancer patients and other patients living with chronic pain and disease. The clarification from the agency should allow patients and their physicians to develop an appropriate pain management plan that may include use of opioid prescription medications without unnecessary delay or restrictions on access to needed medication.”

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