FDA likely to make hydrocodone painkillers harder to prescribe

Prescription painkillers containing hydrocodone should be placed in a more restrictive federal category, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel of experts voted on Friday. The changes would be an effort to stem the tide of prescription painkiller abuse and addiction in the U.S., much of it in rural areas, beginning in Central Appalachia. Painkillers containing hydrocodone are the most widely prescribed drugs in the country.

Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times reports the FDA is likely to adopt the panel’s recommendations, which include limiting access to hydrocodone drugs such as Vicodin by making them harder to prescribe. Refills wouldn’t be allowed without a new prescription, and faxed or called-in prescriptions wouldn’t be accepted. Only a hanwritten prescription from a doctor would be allowed, and pharmacists would be required to keep the drugs in special vaults.

Many said these changes would be a key step in reducing painkiller addiction. However, dissenters in the vote were concerned that this move wouldn’t make a difference. Oxycodone, the main ingredient in the highly-abused painkiller OxyContin, has been classified in a restrictive category since it was first introduced on the market but it is still widely abused, dissenters said. They also said the change could create unfair obstacles for legitimate patients. (Read more)

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