The Obama administration in August of 2014 moved to restrict prescriptions of narcotic painkillers in our country in an attempt to reduce the abuse of such medication. This change became effective on Oct. 6, 2014. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) as a Schedule II controlled substance (from previous Schedule III).
With the new federal rule, this means that refills will not be allowed for prescriptions for narcotic painkillers such as Lortab, Lorcet, Elixr, Vicodin, Hycet and many other drugs that contain hydrocodone. Instead, a patient must have a new handwritten prescription from his or her doctor before getting the prescription filled by a pharmacist. A pharmacy can no longer accept a called-in or faxed prescription for these type medications. However, there are exceptions for emergency treatment and for a limited quantity. Under the new rule, only a doctor can write the prescription (for a 30-day supply). Neither a nurse practitioner nor a physician’s assistant can do this. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart stated:
Almost seven million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents. Today’s action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.
According to the DEA, “[h]ydrocodone combinations, including Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, now account for more prescriptions than any other drug, with more than 130 million filled each year.” Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, stated that “[h]ydrocodone is probably the most abused prescription medication out there.”
Although this new restriction will hopefully help cut down on the misuse of these narcotic medications, it will probably create frustration for patients who need this type medication. These prescriptions are medically necessary for many people with cancer or disabling injuries, who undergo surgery, and who suffer chronic pain, to name a few. However, as we all should know, narcotic painkillers are easily addictive. Those who misuse these prescription drugs will make it much harder for those whose quality of life may depend on this type medications.
The purpose of the new hydrocodone regulation is to reduce the amount of HCPs available for those who abuse the system and for those who take these narcotic painkillers as a recreational drug. The adverse consequences that come with the abuse of prescription medications are many. For example, there are many drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents whose toxicology reports test positive for hydrocodone, and whose conduct often results in a death or devastating injuries for other motorists or passengers. Let’s hope this change will be effective in accomplishing its intended purpose and reduces the number of overdose deaths and also reduces the number of fatalities and life-altering injuries from car accidents.
Sources: SLTToday.com and Gadsden Times
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