Until more research is conducted on the safety and effectiveness of opioid painkillers, the health care community should focus on individualized care for the one-third of Americans who experience chronic pain, an independent panel of medical experts has concluded.
The panel, convened by the National Institutes of Health, released its findings in a report published Jan. 12.
Prescription painkillers have been linked to addiction and death. More than two-thirds of the 22,767 drug-related overdoses in 2013 involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The panel found that some patients experiencing pain are often denied effective comprehensive treatments, while other patients are inappropriately prescribed medications. In addition to studying opioid effectiveness, more research is needed on management and risk mitigation strategies, the panel said.
In the meantime, the panel recommends health care providers follow guidelines issued by professional societies, and for those guidelines to be continually updated as new research is conducted.