FDA recommends reclassifying Hydrocodone
Hydrocodone may be more difficult to get
According to recent news reports the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has voted to place stronger limitations on Hydrocodone, which according to the FDA, is an ingredient found in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. If the recommendations are accepted the restrictions would be similar to other pain relievers which are currently restricted and classified as Schedule II drugs including oxycodone, morphine, and methadone.
Currently Hydrocondone is classified as a Scheule III drug but critics argue that this level of classification, which claims that the drug is has only a moderate abuse potential, is not descriptive enough to clearly limit its high abuse potential that can lead to severe physical dependence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hydrocodone is one of the most common pain medications used by patients and its use in the United States could be considered epidemic. The CDC argues this is because it is currently classified as a Schedule III drug and its abuse may be flying under the radar among doctors. There is also a perception that Hydrocodone may not be as addictive as other pain killers such as Percocet, but according to reports this may not be entirely true.
Right now Hydrocodone is the most often prescribed pain reliever with an estimated 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone written in 2010, according to IMS Health, a health care information company.
What would the reclassification of hydrocodone mean for patients?
The biggest change if hydrocodone is reclassified is it will be more difficult for patients to get through refills before seeing a doctor again. Right now patients are allowed five refills for Schedule III drugs, but with the new changes they would only be allowed three, which is the limit for Schedule II drugs.
Critics of the rescheduling argue that making it more difficult for patients to get necessary pain medication through a reclassification is not a good thing. Especially for patients who do not have good medical care or insurance to see doctors. The cost to pay for the additional office visits could be cost prohibitive. Proponents of the plan argue that the medical community is over prescribing the medication and the difference between hydrocondone and other drugs is minimal.
Others argue that changing the scheduling of the drug may do little to deter doctors from prescribing the medication but instead just make it too difficult for patients to get the drug.
A bigger argument is that the whole conversation about pain killers need to be changed and the perception of pain killers and their dangers need to be reevaluated. According to an FDA spokesman, if you change the scheduling of hydrocodone this conversation is more likely to occur.
"Society's starting to open their eyes that there is a problem associated (with prescription painkillers)," said Anderson. "If you make a move like this...it's out there in the conversation about this epidemic, and that's a good thing."
It also may just mean doctors make more money scheduling more doctors visits to prescribe medication they would have prescribed anyway, and the patients may be the ones who suffer.