By: Tribune news services    Contact Reporter

Critics of how prescription painkillers are administered in the U.S. are calling on health officials to phase out hospital procedures and questionnaires used to manage pain.

They say the current system inadvertently encourages the overprescribing of addictive drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin, fueling an epidemic of overdoses tied to the opioid medications. Deaths linked to misuse and abuse of prescription opioids increased to nearly 19,000 in 2014, the highest figure on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than five dozen non-profit groups and medical experts sent a letter Wednesday to the Joint Commission, a non-profit agency that accredits U.S. hospitals, asking it to revisit its standards for pain management. Only hospitals that have been accredited can receive payments from government plans like Medicare and Medicaid, making the group’s standards highly influential.

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