DEA Puts Tighter Restrictions on Prescription Painkillers
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The Drug Enforcement Administration released a new set of regulations on prescription painkillers Monday, effectively making the medications more difficult to acquire.
In an effort to cut down on the misuse of painkillers, the DEA reclassified prescription hydrocodone painkillers like Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab from Schedule III to Schedule II, a class denoting drugs with a high potential for abuse. The new regulations also place restrictions on how doctors prescribe the drugs, as well as how often patients can refill them.
Previously, hydrocodone prescriptions were permitted up to five refills and could be prescribed over the phone by a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. Now, however, hydrocodone prescriptions must be handwritten by a doctor and are limited to one 30-day supply with no refills.
The DEA said at least seven million Americans have abused prescription drugs in the last decade, with over 100,000 dying from overdose. The administration hopes the stricter rules will ensure that painkillers are used for their intended purposes.
“The hope is we’re able to limit the diversion of hydrocodone combination products, ensuring that they’re not diverted to illicit use and are available to patients with legitimate medical needs,” said Special Agent Joseph Moses, a spokesman for the DEA.
Some doctors feel the tighter controls will only serve to punish those pain-sufferers who are adhering to the drugs’ guidelines, while others argue the reclassification of hydrocodone products is long overdue.
“I can think of several people whose lives were considerably worse after I started them on [hydrocodone-containing] medications 10 years ago,” said Dr. Don Teater, a physician who advises the Itasca-based National Safety Council. “I think a lot of doctors have had that experience.”