A congressional proponent of putting stricter controls on hydrocodone — a painkiller commonly sold as Vicodin — is pleased with today’s recommendation by an FDA panel.
The experts recommended in a 19-10 vote to clamp down on the narcotic by forbidding refills, faxed prescriptions or phoned-in prescriptions for the drug — a new written prescription would be needed each time. In addition, pharmacies would have to store the drug in special vaults. Those caught trafficking the pills would face increased penalties.
“Today was a huge step forward in fighting to help curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic that has ravaged our state and our country,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said. “Rescheduling hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug will help prevent these highly addictive drugs from getting into the wrong hands. I want to sincerely thank the committee for listening to West Virginians’ heart-wrenching stories that I shared today.”
Manchin led an effort in the 112th Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act to make any substance containing hydrocodone a schedule II drug. His co-sponsors were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
“Every city, town and home I’ve visited across West Virginia is affected by this critical problem in some way, shape and form. It seems that any 18 to 25 year old can go to any doctor, claim they have chronic pain, and get a recurring prescription for 120+ of these pills per month,” Manchin said. “The high price people are willing to pay for these drugs on the street inevitably gives our young, drug dealing citizens more incentive to continue in their illegal behavior than to earn an honest living.”
Those arguing against the changes included pharmacies and those who would incur hardships because of the new rules, such as nursing home patients. Opponents pointed out that oxycodone is widely abused despite being a schedule II drug. Some doctors and pharmacists support the proposed new hydrocodone rules, though, in an effort to stem abuse of the painkillers.
“It is now in the FDA’s hands to help stop this epidemic,” Manchin said. “It is my hope that the FDA implements the committee’s recommendations and reschedules these addictive drugs immediately.”
The FDA is expected to follow the panel’s recommendation.