DEA tightens restrictions on hydrocodone combination products

August 22, 2014

In an effort to curb increasing opioid abuse and overdose deaths, the Drug Enforcement Agency has voted to reclassify hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) under the more restrictive category of Schedule II.

In an effort to curb increasing opioid abuse and overdose deaths, the Drug Enforcement Agency voted Thursday to reclassify hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) under the more restrictive category of Schedule II.

DEA’s final rule will take effect in 45 days. The reclassification of hydrocodone combination products from Schedule III to Schedule II will prevent prescribers from calling in prescriptions to pharmacies, eliminate refills, and limit the length of time the powerful painkillers can be prescribed. Patients who need additional hydrocodone combination products such as Vicodin or Lortab will have to get a new prescription.

Rx drug abuse: An overview

The rule also requires pharmacies to take special precautions in storing the drugs and to keep more detailed dispensing records.

Pure hydrocodone drugs have been classified as Schedule II drugs since 1971.

 

"Almost seven million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, the abuse of hydrocodone-combination products was linked to 82,479 emergency department admissions in 2011. And DEA statistics found an increase of 63% from 2004 through 2010 in deaths related to hydrocodone combination products.

According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, 130 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone combination products in the United States in 2013.

"Although there is much more that must be done to curb prescription drug abuse, I am confident that rescheduling hydrocodone will undoubtedly begin saving hundreds of thousands of lives immediately," Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said.