Despite these problems, Hamburg said, patients who need these drugs must have access to them.
"Educating health care professionals on how to safely prescribe extended-release and long-acting opioids is essential to address this critical public health issue," she said.
The FDA hopes that over the next three years, 60 percent of the 320,000 prescribing doctors will have been trained, Hamburg said.
Along with the programs for doctors, the FDA also is mandating that manufacturers provide FDA-approved patient-education materials on the safe use of these drugs. The material appears on a single page in consumer-friendly language, and will be given to patients every time they fill a prescription.
Both the drug companies and the FDA will review the progress and success of these programs. Based on the reviews, the agency may require the companies to provide additional elements to ensure success.
The first programs under the FDA's new requirement are expected to be launched by March 1. Although no doctor currently is required to take the two- to three-hour continuing-education program, the Obama administration is urging Congress to make such programs mandatory.
For more about narcotic painkillers, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: July 9, 2012, press conference with Margaret Hamburg, M.D., commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; FDA news release, July 9, 2012
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