As deaths from unintentional overdose with opioid drugs continue to increase, a plan proposed by the drugs' makers to curb opioid-related deaths and injuries has provoked controversy.
Deaths involving opioid analgesics increased markedly between 1999 and 2006, with methadone-related deaths increasing more rapidly than those involving other drugs in the class.
In February 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was requiring manufacturers of extended-release and long-acting opioids to work together to develop a plan to reduce unintentional overdoses in patients taking these products. The agency proceeded to meet with industry and other stakeholder groups to gather feedback, and at a meeting in early December, an industry working group presented a proposal calling for additional training for opioid prescribers and improvements to materials containing patient safety information. But the proposal has met resistance from health care worker organizations and other groups, which argue that mandatory physician training would ultimately limit patient access to pain medication.
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