U.S. to tighten restrictions on common opioid painkillers

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 21, 2014 7:10pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is tightening restrictions on hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller contained in Vicodin and other addictive drugs.

The move comes as health and law enforcement officials try to curb a rising tide of prescription drug abuse. Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by opioid painkillers, according to federal data.

"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 statement announcing the move on Thursday.

In the future, products such as Vicodin that combine hydrocodone with another substance such as acetaminophen or aspirin, will be classed as Schedule II products, in line with the opioids oxycodone and morphine.

Reclassifying the products will make them harder to obtain, both by addicts and legitimate pain patients. Physicians will not be allowed to call in a prescription to a pharmacy. Patients will have to present a written prescription.

Also, fewer refills will be allowed before patients must return to see their doctor. Opponents of the reclassification, which has been in the works for several years, argue that restricting pain products could cause hardship to patients with chronic illnesses, especially the elderly.

Hydrocodone itself has been a Schedule II drug for decades, but combination products have had a less restrictive Schedule III designation. The DEA said that products that combine hydrocodone with another drug - acetaminophen in the case of Vicodin - are still highly addictive.

"Today's action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available," Leonhart said.

Vicodin is made by AbbVie. Other brand names containing hydrocodone in combination with another drug include Lortab, made by UCB.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; editing by Gunna Dickson and Frances Kerry)

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Comments (4)
DavidLogan wrote:
There will be no change in Florida as we already have these restrictions in place. It’s been this way for us for about 3 years now

Aug 22, 2014 2:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Let’s see here Folks!

I’m 67 yrs old, retired, and have “Arthritic Gout” which flares up to varying degrees EVERYDAY and have NEVER BEEN A DRUG-ABUSER but yet NOW the “Police-state/FEDS” are telling me because I have to use Vicodin on a DAILY BASIS I’m going to have to jump thru MORE HOOPS to get a (PAIN-KILLER) prescription!!! Our government AGAIN IS PUNISHING WE WHO HAVE A LEGITIMATE NEED FOR PAIN-KILLERS!!! Instead of the FED going after Doctors who SELL SCRIPTS FOR PROFIT/PERSONAL GAIN they go after WE who have again a LEGIT NEED for such drugs!!!

Aug 22, 2014 2:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
Just legalize heroine. It’s no more dangerous than these opiate pills, and in many towns it is already cheaper. People who want to kill themselves and destroy themselves, will find a way. The regulations are silly.

Aug 22, 2014 4:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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