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FDA recommends limits on most prescribed painkiller

Oct. 25, 2013 @ 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is recommending new restrictions on prescription medicines containing hydrocodone, the highly addictive painkiller that has grown into the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S. and a big part of the prescription drug abuse problem.

In a major policy shift, the agency said in an online statement that hydrocodone-containing drugs should be subject to the same restrictions as other narcotic drugs like oxycodone and morphine.

"Today was a tremendous step forward in fighting the prescription drug abuse epidemic that has ravaged West Virginia and our country," U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a press release. "Rescheduling hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug will help prevent these highly addictive drugs from getting into the wrong hands and devastating families and communities."

The move comes more than a decade after the Drug Enforcement Agency first asked the FDA to reclassify hydrocodone so that it would be subject to the same restrictions as other opioid drugs.

Hydrocodone has long been easier to prescribe, in part, because it is sold in combination pills and formulas with non-addictive ingredients like aspirin. In 2011, U.S. doctors wrote more than 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone.

Manchin has championed the change since last summer when he included an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act to reschedule hydrocodone. The measure passed the Senate but died in a House-Senate compromise.

Law officers hope the tighter controls will reduce the volume of drugs being diverted to illegal use.

"While we recognize that a legitimate need for pain management exists, we also realize that the diversion of prescription pain medication for illegal purposes is one of the biggest problems we face in West Virginia," West Virginia State Police Colonel C. R. "Jay" Smithers said in a press release. "It is my sincere belief that this measure will decrease the amount of hydrocodone available to those who do not possess a legitimate prescription."

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