Pharmacists Battling Drug Change
Pharmacy groups are opposing a move to reclassify all drugs containing hydrocodone as “controlled substances” that have a high potential for addiction and are subject to tight restrictions.
A bill approved by the U.S. Senate contains the reclassification provision, and it must now go to the House of Representatives to be reviewed before a final version is sent to the President.
If approved, the reclassification would affect drugs like the painkiller Vicodin, a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Drugs already classified as controlled substances include methadone and oxycodone, and hydrocone above 15 mg per dose.
The reclassification would put Vicodin and similar drugs into a category known as Schedule II, meaning that there is a high likelihood of physical and psychological dependence. With these controlled-substances medications, a new prescription is required for each refill, and prescriptions cannot be phoned in.
The pharmacy groups, in objecting to the proposed reclassification, said that it would require additional record-keeping and storage, and that delays could mean slower access to pain-killing drugs by patients who need them.
“As a result of needing a new prescription for each fill, there is a greater chance that patients with a legitimate clinical need would be unnecessarily forced to endure symptoms of pain for a longer period of time," according to a letter signed by the American Pharmacists Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the National Community Pharmacists Association.
Federal statistics show that hydrocodone is the second most abused drug in the U.S., topped only by oxycodone.