U.S. Wants to Make Painkiller Harder to Get
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to make it more difficult to obtain the frequently prescribed painkiller/cough suppressant hydrocodone, the Washington Post reports.
Prescribed more than 100 million times last year, it's sold under the brand names Vicodin and Lortab, and as more than 200 generic brands. The DEA effort to curb abuse of the drug is meeting with stiff resistance from doctors, pharmacists, and people in pain, the newspaper reports.
Now available under less stringent rules of Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA wants to shift the medication to the highly restricted Schedule II. It would mean that patients would have to visit their doctors more often since the prescriptions couldn't be refilled, and that physicians could no longer phone in prescriptions for hydrocodone. Pharmacists would have significantly more paperwork to complete, and improper prescribing could result in more significant penalties, the Post says.
The DEA cites a 48 percent increase in emergency room visits due to hydrocodone abuse from 1998 to 2001. The drug is a chemical cousin of opium, and can produce a morphine-like euphoria in people who take it without a medical purpose, the newspaper says.
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