Dr. Thomas Frieden talks opioids, antibiotic resistance & more with MedPage Today during final days at CDC


Thomas Frieden, MD, led the CDC for more than seven years, with his time as director coming to a close on Jan. 20, 2017. Dr. Frieden spoke to MedPage Today's F. Perry Wilson, MD, on "Doc to Doc" regarding his time at the CDC and healthcare issues taking hold throughout the United States.

Here are five thoughts:

1. Dr. Frieden said his proudest accomplishment during his time as director is that the health of the American people substantially improved since 2009. He said many health professionals at the CDC have been on the "frontlines of healthcare around the country and around the world."

2. Dr. Wilson brought up the incoming Trump administration and whether the administration has approached the CDC on vaccinations, to which Dr. Frieden said he nor others at the CDC have spoken to the incoming administration regarding vaccinations. He said, "At the CDC we value transparency, that's why we rely on an advisory committee on immunization practices to devise the vaccine schedule. The ACIP is a national and international model of transparency... Everything done in that committee is publicly available."

3. On the opioid epidemic, Dr. Frieden said the nation "needs to step back and see where we are." He said it is a societal problem and our society needs to work to better manage pain and addiction. He said, "For physicians, it is very important, that we understand opioids are dangerous drugs. When I went to medical school, I was told if you give opioids to a patient who has pain, they won't get addicted…Opiates are highly addictive, and the therapeutic ratio is quite narrow, so if you give a little bit too much, you can die, and after just a few pills, you can be addicted for life."

4. Dr. Frieden referred to antibiotic resistance as a serious problem and a "huge treat." He said "the medicine cabinet may soon be bare. We should all be better stewards of antibiotics."

5. Dr. Frieden said the majority of leaders he has worked with in Washington, D.C., respect the work the CDC is doing to improve American health and combat the spread of disease. He said he has always been honest about things the agency was unsure about. When being frank about what the CDC does not know and providing evidence about the things they do know, that increases the agency's credibility.  

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