When the FDA changed the controls for opioid pain medications, it was in an effort to help reduce overdoses and addictions to these medications, however, for friends and family members, these actions may only make those suffering with chronic pain much more uncomfortable. Drugs such as Vicodin contain opioid pain medication called hydrocodone.
The new regulations prohibit prescribing and receiving more than one month’s supply of opioid pain medications at one time. It would also prevent getting refills without having visited a doctor for the prescriptions. Additionally, prescriptions for these medications can no longer be faxed, phoned or emailed into a pharmacy, and nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will no longer be allowed to prescribe these medications in states where their prescribing powers are limited.
The FDA has cited growing alarm about the misuse and abuse of prescription opioid pain medications. Additionally, there is an extremely high potential for addiction and overdose with these medications. In fact, overdoses cause 15,000 deaths each year, and the DEA has been pushing for stricter rules to change the classification of opioid pain medications to Schedule II drugs, which is the category just below prohibited.
It is likely that the FDA will accept the recommendation of the panel, which will amend regulations for an estimated 47 million patients that are currently receiving prescriptions for products that contain hydrocodone each year. For those that legitimately need these pain medications, the changes can mean inconvenience and tightening of already stretched budgets.
The intention of the changes is to make it more difficult for people to obtain and continue taking opioid pain relievers for longer than they are required. Many groups, including PROP, or Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, want to ensure that those that legitimately need the medication are able to have it.
Many different government statistics and studies show that most people that develop an addiction to opioid pain relievers don’t become addicted after they get a legitimate prescription for treatment of pain. In fact, studies show that over two-thirds of those that used medications containing hydrocodone for recreational purposes between 2010 and 2011 got the drugs from relatives and/or friends for free and mostly with their permission.
In addition, most overdoses that were fatal did not seem to have anything to do with people that take their medications as they are prescribed to treat pain. One study that was done in West Virginia looked at the records of the medical examiner, as well as the data from drug treatment records and discovered that 95 percent of the victims showed signs of addiction through actions such as injecting and snorting medications that are meant to be taken orally.
Many people, including health care professionals, feel that these numbers speak volumes and should be heeded by the FDA before such strict measures are taken to change the classification of opioid pain relievers. Others argue that while there is a problem with opioid pain relievers being abused and misused, stricter prescribing rules will likely not be an effective way to deal with the issue.