Hydrocodone is the number one drug prescribed in this country for any reason. That should be astounding to you. Should we make it harder to get? That has been a discussion for years that heated up January 2013 when the FDA's Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee voted 19 to 10 in favor of reclassifying hydrocodone-containing drugs (Vicodin, Norco, Lortab as examples) from schedule III to schedule II drugs.
What does this mean? Rescheduling from schedule III to schedule II means you cannot receive refills of this drug without a new triplicate prescription written out by your doctor. Some schedule II drugs you may know include Oxycontin, Morphine, or Fentanyl patches.
There is no question a prescription for a schedule II drug is harder to get. Electronic prescribing, done by most physicians now, is not allowed for schedule II drugs so you have to visit your doc to get an actual triplicate prescription. Schedule II drugs are tracked more carefully so that if multiple doctors are prescribing it or patients are refilling them at different pharmacies we will know this. Refills are not allowed on schedule II drug prescriptions so you get thirty days at a time. Trust me this is a hassle for patients, pharmacists, and physicians…but is this what it will take to stop the overuse of these drugs?
Would rescheduling curb abuse? We have no idea. Many doctors feel the burden of refilling triplicate prescriptions for schedule II drugs is too much to handle in their practices and they may shy away from prescribing them at all. Does the burden of making hydrocodone a schedule II drug make us appreciate more how potent this medication is, and how we should take it more seriously than we do? The abuse and misuse of these medications in this county cannot be ignored, so will this kind of measure be effective in curbing this problem?
- Dr. O
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