Friday, October 25, 2013

FDA recommends tighter rules on hydrocodone, key element of prescription-pill abuse epidemic

"The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended tighter controls on how doctors prescribe the most commonly used narcotic painkillers, changes that are expected to take place as early as next year," Barry Meier reports for The New York Times. "Drugs at issue contain a combination of hydrocodone and an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or aspirin and are sold either as generics or under brand names like Vicodin or Lortab." (Associated Press photo by Toby Talbot)

"Doctors use the medications to treat pain from injuries, arthritis, dental extractions and other problems," Meier writes. "The change would reduce the number of refills patients could get before going back to see their doctor. Patients would also be required to take a prescription to a pharmacy, rather than have a doctor call it in. The new regulations would reduce by half, to 90 days, the supply of the drug a patient could obtain without a new prescription."

In 2011, about 131 million prescriptions for 47 million patients, or about five billion pills, were written for medications containing hydrocdone, Meier writes. "Prescription drugs account for about three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the United States, with the number of deaths from narcotic painkillers, or opioids, quadrupling since 1999, according to federal data." (Read more)

More than 6.1 million Americans abuse prescription pills, and last year there were 22,133 prescription drug deaths. The problem is most rampant in Central Appalachia, especially West Virginia, which leads the country in overdose deaths from prescription drug abuse with 28.9 deaths per every 100,000 people—a 605 percent increase since 1999. A pair of documentaries were recently released depicting prescription drug abuse in West Virginia.

UPDATE, Oct. 28: "The story behind the FDA’s turnaround . . . involved a rare victory by lawmakers from states hard hit by prescription drug abuse over well-financed lobbyists for business and patient groups, one that came during a continuing public health crisis," Meier and Eric Lipton report for the Times. Cited are Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, whose district borders West Virginia. (Read more)

1 comment:

L. Trost said...

Please consider the people, like me, who are using hydrocodone appropriately. Your restrictions are only taking abusers into account. Pain is so debilitating. It is fatiguing, it is depressing. We have to deal with it, and that is the real reality of this. It seems that you are only looking at the people who are not using it properly. It causes me pain to walk, to sit on chairs in doctors offices, to get into and out of my vehicle. Please don't make me do that MORE just to make it hurt less. Making MY life harder isn't going to stop doctors who choose to prescribe more than they should, it's not going to stop people from getting the drug illegally. It's ONLY going to make it more difficult for me to live my life as fully as I can, in SPITE of my pain. Please. I could cry just typing this. Who do we turn to? Who will look out for us? Please don't make us responsible for other people's decisions.