DEA Attempting to Reclassify Hydrocodone


    DEA aims to cut pain drug's use


    Washington Post Service

    WASHINGTON - The Drug Enforcement Administration is working to make one of the most widely prescribed medications more difficult for patients to obtain as part of its stepped-up offensive against the diversion and abuse of prescription painkillers.

    Top DEA officials confirm that the agency is eager to change the official listing of the narcotic hydrocodone -- which was prescribed more than 100 million times last year -- to the highly restricted Schedule II category of the Controlled Substances Act. A painkiller and cough suppressant sold as Lortab, Vicodin and 200 generic brands, hydrocodone combined with other medications has long been available under the less stringent rules of Schedule III.

    The DEA effort is part of a broad campaign to address the problem of prescription drug abuse. The initiative has repeatedly pitted the agency against doctors, pharmacists and pain sufferers, and it is doing so again with the hydrocodone proposal.

    Pain specialists and pharmacy representatives say the new restrictions would be a burden on the millions of Americans who need the drug to treat serious pain from arthritis, AIDS, cancer and chronic injuries, and that many sufferers are likely to be prescribed other, less effective drugs as a result.

    If the change is made, patients, would have to visit their doctors more often for hydrocodone prescriptions, because they could not be refilled; doctors could no longer phone in prescriptions; and pharmacists would have to fill out more paperwork and keep the drugs in a safe. Improper prescribing would carry greater penalties.

    The DEA says the change is necessary because hydrocodone is being widely misused -- with a 48 percent increase in emergency room reports of hydrocodone abuse from 1998 to 2001. The drug, a semisynthetic chemical cousin of opium, produces a morphine-like euphoria if taken without a medical purpose but generally does not produce a similar ''high'' in patients with severe or chronic pain.

    DEA officials would not say when they might begin to change the schedule, but other federal officials said the DEA wants to act soon.

    ''Rescheduling the drug will bring more hoops and barriers to getting access to the drugs, and it may prevent some minimal amount of abuse,'' said Richard Payne, president of the American Pain Society. ``But my concern is that it will come at the cost of denying access to thousands of patients.''


    Wow. I know there was a thread about moving the other way with this stuff, but this would be disasterous to my ability to practice medicine in the Emergency setting. I can't prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, but I regularly write for Lortab 7.5 in limited quantities.

    I find that practitioners now are generally more unwilling to appropriately treat pain than they were even ten years ago, and a vast majority of the physicians I know won't even write for a Schedule II in outpatient setting. What's left? Basically the designer NSAIDs (you would be better off taking an Advil unless you have GI problems), Tylenol #3, which I find to cause more nausea, and Darvon (great drug, I think should be OTC, but sometimes just won't cut it).

    I suppose I will just start prescribing Stadol NS for everything. It will sure as hell get you more high than a Vicodin will, but that and Talwin-NX would be the only really effective analgesics left at my disposal.

    It's kind of sad.
  2. Visit PA-C in Texas profile page

    About PA-C in Texas

    Joined: Jan '04; Posts: 97; Likes: 12
    Physician Assistant


  3. by   fergus51
    I find this really sad. For every abuser out there, I bet there are 10 people with legitimate pain not being properly treated. I just think our whole attitude about drugs/medication is so messed up.

    We even had a woman dying of cancer stop taking her medication because she was worried about addiction! Then she wound up in the hospital because of uncontrolled pain and died shortly after. I just don't get it.
  4. by   BabyRN2Be
    I've heard about this over the last few years, about attempts to make hydrocodone a schedule 2. You hear about it for a few months, and then nothing. Hopefully for your sake, it's just another rumor.
  5. by   bellehill
    I love how the government thinks, everyday I am more amazed. People who want to abuse these necessary drugs will do so no matter how the drugs are classified.
  6. by   veetach
    Quote from bellehill
    I love how the government thinks, everyday I am more amazed. People who want to abuse these necessary drugs will do so no matter how the drugs are classified.

    I was just about to say the same thing. If the DEA thinks Vicodin is being misused now, just wait until they bump it up to a schedule II.

    We dispense more Vicodin than any painkiller in our Pyxis, next is Percocet. What about you guys????
  7. by   sharann
    It is just another thing the government wants to control but has no clue about the horrendous outcomes. Now, when I take anything containing hydrocodone, I pesronally feel sick and jittery. But when I drink a why is one pain drug o.k and another "pain" drug not? So sad, so stupid.Make something harder to get is like dangling an appple in the garden of Eden.
  8. by   PA-C in Texas
    Make something harder to get is like dangling an appple in the garden of Eden.
    Yeah and we all know how that turned out.
  9. by   sharann
    Sheesh, I need to learn how to spell.
    I just wonder, what's next on the list of "the public is so lame we need to control their intake" agenda. Oh well.
  10. by   teeituptom
    Have you seen all those Lawyer commercials and how they are suing about problems with Oxycodone
  11. by   sharann
    Quote from teeituptom
    Have you seen all those Lawyer commercials and how they are suing about problems with Oxycodone
    Those so called "Lawyers" are nothing short of evil :angryfire . It's one thing to take a client who COMES to you looking to sue, it's another ballgame when you are the ambulance chaser. I don't undertand why the BAR allows this. Advertising blatantly and ENCOURAGING lawsuits should be cause for losing the right to practice law (but apparently they think it is ethical enough) Sorry, this post wasn"t supposed to be abour lawyers!
    O.k, my brother is a lawyer so I don't hate all of them or have an agenda, and there are quite a few nurse lawyers
  12. by   RNin92
    I think that the if the DEA thinks their additional rules will change anything for the good...they need to come out of their offices and check out the ERs once in awhile.

    I am sure all the politicians would love to be able to report on how WELL the DEA is taking on the problem of prescription drug abuse in this country, but the TRUTH is they are putting a bandaid on the leak in the damn...and it "ain't gonna hold water."

    And the other topic on this thread...lawyers...
    Well that is a whole other problem!!! (And I come from a long line of lawyers in my family!!)

    Funny isn't it...nurses are considered the most respected and honest professionals...and lawyers...well let's just say they are closer to the bottom of the list!!
  13. by   BabyRN2Be
    Betcha we probably wouldn't have as much problem with the abuse of Oxycontin if the news media outlets hadn't reported about it. I think the real abuse problem possibly started after reports of how high one could get after the ingestion of a crushed tablet. It was probably a problem for it was reported, however, after all the druggies heard about it's potential, the problem just exploded.

    It's really a shame. I hear it does wonders for cancer patients.
  14. by   OC_An Khe
    Why don't we just decriminalize all drugs. That would solve a lot of problems.