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Medicare considers issuing limits on opioid prescriptions

NORWICH, CT - MARCH 23:  Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain lie on display on March 23, 2016 in Norwich, CT. On March 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced guidelines for doctors to reduce the amount of opioid painkillers prescribed, in an effort to curb the epidemic. The CDC estimates that most new heroin addicts first became hooked on prescription pain medication before graduating to heroin, which is stronger and cheaper.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore/Getty Images
Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain lie on display on March 23, 2016 in Norwich, CT.

Medicare officials are poised to approve a crackdown on opioids that could affect more than a million-and-a-half patients managing chronic pain. Medicare would refuse to pay for long-term, high-dosage, prescriptions.

Medicare officials are poised to approve a crackdown on opioids that could affect more than a million-and-a-half patients managing chronic pain. Medicare would refuse to pay for long-term, high-dosage, prescriptions.

The new limit would go into effect next January 1.

More than 200 pain and addiction specialists have signed a letter opposing the limit. They say it could lead patients to black market sellers, or even suicide.

Critics further claim the proposed limit is based on a misreading of Centers for Disease Control recommendations aimed at new opioid prescriptions, not ongoing ones.

We’ll talk to doctors about the tradeoffs they’d have to weigh with this new policy.

Guests:

Anna Lembke, M.D., associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic; her latest book is “Drug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop” (Johns Hopkins University Press, October 2016)

Lynn Webster, M.D., former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and author of the book “The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us” (Oxford University Press, 2016)

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