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Should Hydrocodone be reclassified as a Schedule II Drug?


Many of you have attended our “Pharmacology for Advance Practice Clinicians” conferences over the last 18 years.  You have renewed your prescriptive authority, updated your knowledge in pharmacology and many have also met their California BRN Scheduled II Controlled Substances educational requirements. We are interested in your thoughts on the debate as to whether or not hydrocodone products should be reclassified from a schedule III to a schedule II drug.

On January 25th at the end of a 2-day meeting, the majority of the FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management advisory panel had recommended that it should be reclassified, because stricter controls on prescribing are needed to address the current epidemic of abuse, misuse, and diversion in the United States.

As you know, Schedule III allows written or oral prescribing, and five refills within 6 months, while schedule II drugs require handwritten prescriptions and other restrictions.

Those voting in favor of rescheduling said that it would result in a net public health benefit by making these drugs less available for abuse and reducing the amount that ends up in medication cabinets and on the street.  But panelists voting against rescheduling said there was no evidence that rescheduling would have an impact on abuse and diversion, and would likely result in an increase in the use of heroin and other illicit drugs, and problems with other schedule III drugs. They were also concerned about the negative consequences of rescheduling on the treatment of pain, with the increased burden and reduced access to effective pain medications for patients in pain, particularly those in rural areas or those who have difficulty getting to a doctor for a prescription renewal.

What are your thoughts? Comment below and let us know.  Read more about this topic in an article titled, “FDA panel backs more restricted hydrocodone prescribing”, by Elizabeth Mechcatie in the Rheumatology News Digital Network.



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