The Food and Drug Administration has announced a plan to place new restrictions on the prescription of Vicodin and other hydrocodone combination drugs. Under the new controls, hydrocodone combination products would be reclassified from Schedule III to Schedule II drugs, making them subject to stronger rules on how they could be prescribed.
Over the past several years, accidental overdoses on prescription drugs such as Vicodin and hydrocodone have become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Many of these deaths occur because patients are given painkillers that are too powerful or in higher quantities than what is needed to alleviate their pain. When doctors overprescribe opioid painkillers to their patients, dependency, addiction, and potentially fatal overdoses can result.
In a statement announcing the new controls, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said that the agency had decided to strengthen rules about how hydrocodone medications could be prescribed due to concerns about the potential for the abuse and misuse of these drugs.
Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S., and yet has a higher potency than morphine, a drug that is currently classified as Schedule II by the FDA. Health officials are optimistic that the agency’s new controls for the drug will help to limit the abuse and overprescription of hydrocodone drugs while still ensuring that patients receive the pain management treatments that they need.