Tighter Restrictions Coming for Painkillers Like Vicodin

To understand this week’s story we first have to understand how habit-forming medicines are currently prescribed in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Agency divides potentially addictive substances into different schedules. Schedule II controlled substances are prescription medicines that have a high potential for abuse and severe dependence. They include all the opiate (narcotic) pain medicines, like morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. These medications must be prescribed on a paper prescription that has special security markings that prevent copying. The prescription must be taken to the pharmacy by the patient, and cannot be faxed or phoned in. And the prescription can at most prescribe a 90 day supply of the medication without refills.

Schedule III controlled substances are prescription medicines that have less potential for abuse and dependence than the medicines in Schedule II. It includes many medications that include an opiate medicine with a non-opiate in the same tablet. Examples include hydrocodone with acetaminophen (marketed as Vicodin, Lortab, or Norco), tylenol with codeine, and hydrocodone with ibuprofen (Vicoprofen). Prescriptions for these medicines can be called in or faxed by physicians to pharmacies, can be written for more than a 90 day supply at a time, and can include refills.

In the last decade the number of prescriptions for Schedule III pain relievers has skyrocketed, as has the number of people taking hydrocodone for non-medical reasons. Prescription drugs are now a leading cause of addiction.

After years of consideration and debate, ” target=”_blank”>F.D.A. Urging A Tighter Rein On Painkillers (New York Times)
” target=”_blank”>Statement on Proposed Hydrocodone Reclassification from Janet Woodcock, M.D., Director, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (Food and Drug Administration)

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Important legal mumbo jumbo:
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