Hydrocodone and hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin are among the most popular pharmacy drugs used for pain in the U.S, but due to the abuse and misuse of hydrocodone, the FDA is in the process of tightening the control over hydrocodone and hydrocodone-based products. “The FDA agreed to recommend by early December reclassifying the pills as a Schedule II substance, Janet Woodcock, director of the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said today in a statement,” according to an Oct. 24, 2013, Bloomberg report.
Hydrocodone-based drugs such as Vicodin are currently classified as Schedule III drugs, which means that on a scale of one to five, hydrocodone is in third place.
As of now, hydrocodone-based drugs can be prescribed by nurse practitioners and are quite readily prescribed by physicians. Reclassifying hydrocodone and hydrocodone-based drugs as Schedule II drugs would mean that nurse practitioners in some states would not be able to write prescriptions for hydrocodone and many doctors might not be willing “to prescribe anything stronger than Schedule III.”
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine and is supposed to be used to treat moderate to severe pain. OxyContin, another opioid painkiller, is already a Schedule II drug because it can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
In a statement published by the FDA on Oct. 24, 2013, the FDA described its reason for reclassifying hydrocodone from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug. “In recent years, the FDA has become increasingly concerned about the abuse and misuse of opioid products, which have sadly reached epidemic proportions in certain parts of the United States.”
According to a Journal of Medical Toxicology report, “the USA is witnessing a burgeoning epidemic of nonmedical prescription opioid use associated with escalating rates of addiction, mortality, and economic loss. Prescription opioids are a group of morphine-like analgesics that share clinical effects despite distinct pharmacological properties.”
Hydrocodone-based painkillers are increasingly being used by non-medical users as recreational drugs.
Reclassifying hydrocodone-based drugs as Schedule II drugs would not only mean restrictions on who can prescribe the drugs but it would also limit refills. A Schedule II reclassification of hydrocodone-based drugs would reduce the current five refills within six months to a 90-day supply.