FDA proposes tighter restrictions on some prescription pain killers

Prescription Drugs

ABILENE, Texas - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose in the U.S.

Now the Food and Drug Administration is proposing changes to regulations of some commonly used prescription pain killers, specifically those containing hydrocodone such as vicodin.

In a 2011 congressional testimony, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians said since 1999, sales of prescription painkillers in the United States have quadrupled and so have the number of fatalities from those drugs. One drug in particular is responsible for many of them.

"Specifically with hydrocodone it's gotten worse in that it just tends to be a drug that people want to abuse and they'll just go to extremes to obtain it," said Greg Young, Pharmacy manager at Hendrick Medical Center. 

That's why the FDA is proposing a change. They want to reclassify pain killers containing hydrocodone from a schedule III drug to a schedule II.

What's the problem?

"The restrictions that we put in place need to have a provision for people that rely on these medications for chronic pain needs," said Young

Patients would have to have a written prescription for the drug from a doctor. It could no longer be called in. It would also prohibit refills. Instead patients would have to visit a doctor for a new prescription. 

Is there another way to prevent prescription drug abuse?

"The best prevention strategy is really having a customer that's responsible; going to one doctor, letting your doctor know everyone else they're seeing, going to one pharmacy and having physicians and pharmacies that are aware of what's going on," Young said.

The FDA's proposal will be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services by December. Then the DEA will make the final decision on whether or not to reclassify the drugs.

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