As reported by the Associated Press and CNN , on Friday, January 25, 2013, an advisory panel recommended that the FDA place tighter restrictions on hyrdrocodone, which is the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S. Hydrocodone is an ingredient found in popular painkillers such as Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. The panel urged that hydrocodone be moved from its current classification as a Schedule III drug – a drug with moderate abuse potential – to a more restrictive Schedule II classification – for drugs with high abuse potential that can lead to severe physical dependence. Current Schedule II drugs include oxycodone (Percocet), morphine, and methadone. The Drug Enforcement Agency supports this recommendation.
The panel’s suggestions would limit which kinds of medical professionals can write a prescription and how many times it can be refilled. If hydrocodone is reclassified, a patient will only receive a single 90-day prescription before needing to see a doctor again instead of the currently allowed five refills.
Proponents of the panel’s recommendation hope that it will make doctors think twice and consider the potential dangers before prescribing the addictive painkillers. Pain advocacy groups and some medical professionals fear that if the new restrictions are adopted it will just make it harder for patients to get the medications they legitimately need.
Many questions remain as to how the tighter restrictions will affect the illegal use of the painkillers. Will tighter restrictions: (1) lead to less prescriptions, which will result in fewer people becoming physically addicted to the painkillers and therefore fewer people will use illegal means to obtain the drugs; or – will it (2) force people in pain with a legitimate need to turn to illegal providers in order to obtain drugs that they could obtain legally through their doctor before? The FDA has not said when they will rule on the recommendations.
image source: CNN