On Friday, January 25, 2013, an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted 19 to 10 to recommend moving hydrocodone combination drugs, such as Vicodin, Lortab, and Norco to the schedule II category of controlled substances. If the FDA follows the panel's recommendation and moves hydrocodone combination drugs from their current schedule III to schedule II, prescribing practices would be more restricted. Many arthritis patients use hydrocodone combination drugs to manage their pain.
Drugs and other substances that are considered controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act are divided into 5 schedules. Classification is based on whether a drug or substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., its abuse potential, and the likelihood of causing dependence when abused. Here is a closer look at the 5 schedules.
The move from schedule III to II would disallow prescribing hydrocodone combination drugs for up to a 6-month period per prescription. Doctors would no longer be able to call in or fax a prescription for these drugs. Schedule II drugs require a written prescription for no more than a 3-month supply per prescription.
Those fighting to prevent prescription drug abuse and the fatal consequences that result from opioid abuse sit on one side of this issue. It has become an epidemic and a problem we as a society must recognize and address. Yet, there is the other side of the issue which cannot be ignored -- appropriate access to opioid medications for people living with chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis. If, implemented, will the schedule change for hydrocodone combination drugs and corresponding restrictions produce an unneccessary burden for people who need the drugs to function in their daily lives? Would the change cause doctors to shy away from prescribing the drugs, creating problems with access for people who live with chronic pain? Are the needs of chronic pain patients being overlooked or sacrificed because fighting prescription drug abuse has become a more urgent battle? Or, is the proposal simply justifiable? What do you think? Sound off.
- Vicodin - What You Should Know
- Facts About Analgesics (Painkillers)
- Drug Safety Is Partly the Patient's Responsibility
- Study: Addiction to Narcotic Painkillers Prescribed for Chronic Pain Is Not Common
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