DEA to Increase Restrictions on Hydrocodone Combination Products

Prescription Medication Spilling From an Open Medicine Bottle

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced it will reclassify hydrocodone combination products such as Vicodin. Under the new rules, patients will be able to receive the drugs for only up to 90 days without receiving a new prescription, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In October 2013, the Food and Drug Administration recommended tighter restrictions for hydrocodone combination products.

The DEA hopes the move will reduce prescription drug abuse, the article notes. Under the new rule, hydrocodone combination products will be classified as Schedule II drugs. Currently these products are Schedule III drugs, meaning they can be refilled up to five times, and prescriptions can cover a 180-day period. In most cases, patients who wish to refill their hydrocodone combination prescription will now have to give their pharmacy a prescription from a healthcare provider, instead of having it phoned or faxed in.

“Almost seven million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a news release. “Today’s action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.”

Critics of the new rule have said it could reduce access to pain medication for patients suffering acute pain. Mark Fleury, a policy analyst at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said seriously ill patients will now be required to visit their doctors more often than necessary to receive the drugs. In some states, the new rule will limit the ability of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe the medications, Fleury said.

Drug manufacturers and pharmacy groups have opposed the change, according to the newspaper. Pharmacies will now have to store hydrocodone combination products in a secure location, noted John Norton, a spokesman for the National Community Pharmacists Association.

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    Twyla Chambers

    September 5, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    Sadly most of what has been accomplished with the opioid laws is making it more difficult for those who need these medications to obtain them. You now require that a disabled person drive to their physician’s office to pick up a paper prescription, instead of taking an electronic prescription (which is actually more secure since in most states anyone can pick up that prescription and fill it if they know your birthday, which I usually have to utilize since most days I am unable to drive). Then they have to go on their quest of the pharmacy crawl. Since the pharmacies will not tell you if they have these medications in stock, and with the new laws are restricted in what they can have shipped they often run out of medications, on average I have to visit 3-6 pharmacies to have one of my prescriptions filled. Then when we find a pharmacy to have our medications filled we are shamed and humiliated in front of other customers by the pharmacy staff. I require these medications to function, without strong opioid medications my pain levels are so extreme that my normally very low blood pressure becomes dangerously high, and I become dangerously tachycardic. However, this side of the debate is ignored in exchange for the anti-drug rhetoric. People need to step back and do more research, stop supporting legislation in an emotional response. The actual risk of prescription drug abuse is very low. Time and time again statistics support that. In this attempt to reduce the “risk” of addiction you are punishing a portion of the population that already struggles to survive, let alone truly live.

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    Russ Knight

    September 4, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    This change seems like another attempt to say these drugs are evil and everyone who takes them is pathological. In fact these drugs provide a way to live and function for people who have severe chronic pain. They understand that they are addicted to the medication. They had to accept that when the original prescribing MD told them they would probably need to take them for the rest of their life unless a new solution is discovered. With that physician and their family they made the decision to take the only bearable solution that was offered. Not only do they have to deal with this pain but also the looks and reactions they encounter with people in the supply chain who treat them like they were dealing herione in the street instead of taking their medicine as prescribe as so many do. Medications like Oxycontin and Oxycodone allow them to continue to function at work, at home as volunteers and at their places of worship. Making these medications more restrictive for these patients makes no sense to me. Increasing enforcement of the law is fine. If someone breaks the law punish them for that. Please don’t continue to think of ways to punish those of us who do not break the law and who are functioning members of society.

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