DEA tightens rules on hydrocodone combination pills

Photo: CNN
Photo: CNN

(CNN) — One person dies every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose in the United States.

On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Administration tried to combat this epidemic by saying it will tighten controls on hydrocodone products, some of the most commonly misused narcotic painkillers on the market.

The DEA action moves hydrocodone combination pills, also known as opioids, from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug. The final ruling goes into effect in 45 days.

Drugs are categorized into one of five “schedules” by the DEA based on “whether they have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, their relative abuse potential and their likelihood of causing dependence when abused.” Other drugs, such as Adderall and morphine, are also labeled as Schedule II.

Hydrocodone combination pills put hydrocodone with less potent painkillers such as acetaminophen. One example is the drug Vicodin.

Now, in order to use these drugs, patients will have to get a written prescription from a doctor — instead of one submitted orally by phone. And refills are prohibited; patients would have to check in with their doctors to get another prescription.

A Schedule II classification also puts manufacturing quotas in place for these hydrocodone products. Pure hydrocodone is already a Schedule II substance.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said the ruling is a victory for those trying to find answers in the opioid overdose epidemic.

“If you think about bringing the epidemic under control, you have to get treatment. But we also have to stop creating new cases of addiction.

“I think this move will have big impact on bringing the epidemic under control.”

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