Physicians could see tighter controls on hydrocodone

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 11, 2013

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House lawmakers are urging the Food and Drug Administration to strengthen regulations on painkillers that contain hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin and Lortab, should be restricted tightly due to the potential for abuse, Reps. Vern Buchanan (R, Fla.) and Edward Markey (D, Mass.) wrote in a Jan. 28 letter. The FDA is considering an advisory panel’s recommendation to reclassify these Schedule III drugs that contain hydrocodone so they are more closely regulated under Schedule II.

Other painkillers with the active ingredient oxycodone, such as OxyContin and Percocet, are regulated as Schedule II drugs. Some prescribers may believe ordering hydrocodone drugs is safer, the lawmakers said. As a result, more than 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone medications were written in 2010, and now overdoses from the drug outnumber traffic fatalities.

“Reclassification of hydrocodone combination drugs alone is not enough to end the scourge of prescription drug abuse, and we need to ensure that any changes protect the ability of patients with a legitimate medical need to access these medications,” the letter stated. “But regulating these potent painkillers appropriately is a critical step.”

Buchanan and Markey have introduced legislation to limit how much hydrocodone patients can receive between visits with their physicians. Prescriptions also would need to be written instead of faxed or called in by phone to pharmacies.

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