Prescription Pill Bottle

The Medical Board of California publishes new guidelines on prescribing opioids for pain

California Medical Association

The Medical Board of California recently published a long-awaited update to its opioid prescribing guidelines, which will make it easier for patients to get the care they need while maintaining appropriate safeguards. Importantly, the medical board has clarified that the guidelines are not intended to replace a physician’s clinical judgment and individualized, patient-centered decision-making.

The guidelines are consistent with recommendations from the California Medical Association (CMA), which had urged the medical board’s Opioid Prescribing Task Force  “to use balancing between appropriate risk assessment and ensuring that patients receive individualized care as the guiding principle as you work on this latest update of the guidelines.”

In a letter to the taskforce, CMA noted that previous prescribing guidelines were acutely focused on reducing opioid prescribing to address opioid-related overdose. California already had one of the lowest opioid prescribing rates in the country when the previous guidelines were passed, and has continued to reduce prescribing. The current surge in overdose deaths is related to use of illicit drugs.

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