August 8, 2012
Since the Joint Commission instituted new pain management standards more than a decade ago, the number of accidental overdose deaths from prescription painkillers has almost quadrupled in the US to 15,500.
Because the Joint Commission inspects and accredits all health care facilities, its new standards encouraged doctors to aggressively prescribe opioids, said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. That message played a key role in this man-made epidemic.
The Joint Commission denied the accusation, blaming drug trafficking, diversion and abuse by individuals and said there is no evidence that the Joint Commission hospital standards play any significant role in the issues we are facing today.
After The Clarion-Ledger began asking questions, the commission said it planned to issue an alert this month to highlight the risks of opioid analgesics and the steps health care providers can take to prevent adverse drug events for hospital inpatients.
It would be first time the commission has issued an alert on opioids risks.
The Senate Finance Committee is now investigating the commission and its ties to Purdue Pharma and other painkiller manufacturers.
Purdue Pharma supplied a grant to the Joint Commission to produce a 2000 pain assessment and management manual that told health care facilities the side effects of opioids had been exaggerated and that physical dependence had been wrongly confused with addiction.
There is no evidence that addiction is a significant issue when persons are given opioids for pain control, according to a copy of the manual obtained by The Clarion-Ledger.
Kolodny said the suggestion that opioids arent addictive is dangerous misinformation.
In 2007, three Purdue executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges for their role in misbranding the opioid OxyContin, wrongly claiming it was less addictive than other opioids and that it did not cause euphoria.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids act on the same receptors as heroin; it put estimates of opioid addiction among chronic pain patients as high as 40 percent.