In January 2013, an FDA advisory panel voted 19 to 10 to strengthen restrictions on hydrocodone prescription products, such as Vicodin, Lorcet and Lortab, according to news reports. The panel recommended that the FDA re-classify hydrocodone pain relievers as Schedule II, a category that indicates the drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
Supporters of the panel’s recommendation say it could help reduce addiction to painkillers. Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the United States and is associated with more drug abuse and diversion than any other legal or illegal opioid, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hydrocodone products appear most often in tablet, capsule or liquid form.
Opponents of the panel’s recommendations expressed concerned the changes would make it more difficult for patients in chronic pain to obtain relief. For example, under the proposal doctors could prescribe no more than a 3-month supply at one time and could not order refills without a new prescription. Morphine, methadone and oxycodone (such as Oxycontin and Percocet) are among the drugs currently in Schedule II.
At this time, exactly how the FDA will interpret the panel’s conclusions remains to be seen.
Drug Enforcement Administration