But the fact that the agency is even considering prescriptions for acute pain is puzzling – considering how catastrophic their guidelines for chronic pain were. Since their botched publication during a secret webinar in 2015 the CDC's "voluntary" policies have been widely accepted as compulsory by insurers, regulators and providers – they have used them to deny treatment to patients and forcibly rejuvenate many opioid prescriptions.
"I was forced to rejuvenate myself, how could the CDC take over my medical treatment, how is that legal, the CDC had never judged me, but changed my pain medicine," asks PNN reader Patti. "I've been in bed or on the couch from an active woman during my days, I live 24 hours a day without interruption."
Patti is not alone. In a PNN survey of over 3,100 patients last year, over 90% said the CDC guidelines were harmful to patients and nearly half said it was harder for them to find a doctor who would treat her pain. Ten percent do not have a doctor at all.
There are also disturbing reports of patients committing suicide because their pain is treated so badly.
"I wish it was over, it's an ubiquitous thought, I have to work diligently to chase away those thoughts," Leanne Gooch wrote in a recent guest column for PNN. "My doctors can not or do not want to treat me because my chronic pain has contributed to all addicts around the world, I admit that's a ridiculous statement if they admit they've gone too far deny me proper medical care. "
The quality of pain management in the US has become so poor that Human Rights Watch initiated an investigation to treat pain patients as a possible human rights violation on.
"What kind of quality of life do I have when I can barely move?" Asks Amy, who suffers from myofascial pain and relies on a wheelchair. "I really want to have a functional life and have a family, there is not much to ask, I will never have it, please give me some tramadol, please allow me hydrocodone if I really need it, please help me. Please help us all. "
The guidelines have not achieved any main objective. While prescription of opioids has declined (a trend that began years before the publication of the CDC guidelines), overdoses of pioids have increased, driven by a scourge of illegal opioids sold on the black market. Americans are more likely to overdose on illegal fentanyl than painkillers.
Several states and insurers have already enacted regulations restricting the initial use of opioids in acute pain to a few days. The CDC has also dealt with this question.
"When opioids are used in acute pain, clinicians should prescribe the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids and should not prescribe a greater amount than is necessary for the expected duration of severe pain, enough to require opioids, three days or more less are often enough, more than seven days are rarely needed, "says the agency in existing guidelines.
Why does Dr. Redfield to develop new guidelines for acute pain? In his interview with The Wall Street Journal, Redfield said his interest is partly due to the struggle of a close family member with opioid dependence.
"I think part of my understanding of the epidemic has come, I see it not just as a public health person and not just a doctor," he said. "It's something that has influenced me on a personal level."
The epidemic also affects patients with chronic pain, a type that the CDC has yet to admit or publicly admit.