Revised CDC Guideline on Opioid Prescribing Analyzed by Analysis Group Authors

March 19, 2024

In the face of continuing public and legislative concerns over the consequences and societal costs of opioid addiction, there is an ongoing tension between regulatory approaches intended to restrict inappropriate prescribing, on the one hand, and the desire to maintain patient access for legitimate medical care, on the other. To manage this tension, agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued regulatory guidance on the manufacture and prescribing of these substances. For example, the CDC issued a guideline in 2016 that described dosage and duration thresholds for opioid prescriptions. In an article for Law360, an Analysis Group team of authors analyzed that guideline soon after it was issued for its potential effects on prescription trends.

The CDC revised that guideline in late 2022. In a new Law360 article, Analysis Group Managing Principal Kenneth Weinstein, Vice President Nicholas Van Niel, and Associate Kate Uthe assess the changes between the two sets of guidance and compare opioid prescription patterns before and after the 2016 guideline. The 2016 guideline was often applied in an inflexible way that its authors had not intended; the 2022 guideline was designed in part to correct such misapplication. The authors focus their analysis on two key metrics – prescriptions at or above 90 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) and prescriptions for longer than a seven-day period – for oxycodone and hydrocodone, the two most commonly prescribed opioids.

The authors conclude that there have been gradual decreases in relative prevalence of high-strength and long-duration prescriptions, with most of the decrease following the issuance of the 2016 guideline. “It remains to be seen if any further changes in these trends can be observed following the 2022 updates to the CDC guideline,” they write.

Read the article

Read the analysis of the 2016 guideline