Combination drugs, those that contain hydrocodone and other ingredients, are currently subject to fewer regulations than pure hydrocodone.
"This drug has got a hold of this society and it's killing us," said Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator in the DEA's Office of Diversion Control. "There's so many prescriptions out there and I'll tell you why. The medical community, in my humble opinion, is not taking this drug seriously."
Increased Restrictions Proposed
An advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration held a hearing last week to consider the DEA proposal to increase restrictions on combination drugs, such as vicodin. The panel voted to recommend tighter restrictions on the drugs to the FDA board.
The FDA meeting was prompted by the runaway prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States, documented by the skyrocketing number of hydrocodone-related visits to the emergency room each year since 2000.
Drugs that combine hydrocodone and other less powerful painkillers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are currently listed as Schedule III drugs, unlike pure hydrocodone, which is Schedule II.
Proposals to Limit Combination Drugs
The DEA proposal for these combination drugs include:
- Moving combination drugs to Schedule II.
- Limiting restrictions to 90 days maximum.
- Allowing doctors only to prescribe the drugs.
Also at the FDA meeting, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing asked that the agency recommend that physicians write prescriptions only for severe pain, and at much lower doses.