Lawmakers Demand FDA Restrict Vicodin

Lawmakers Demand FDA Restrict Vicodin

images2A bipartisan group of congressmen is demanding the Food and Drug Administration “act without delay” by restricting access to Vicodin and other hydrocodone products, the most widely used and abused narcotic painkiller in the U.S.

Last month an advisory panel to the FDA voted 19 to 10 to reclassify hydrocodone products from a Schedule III controlled substance to a Schedule II drug, which will make it harder for pain patients to obtain or get refills for. The FDA, which usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels, has not yet made a final decision on the matter.

“The American people have waited too long for action from this agency,” wrote Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virgina) in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “Hydrocodone combination drugs are some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs nationwide, and your own experts agreed it is time we take the necessary steps to address this deadly epidemic.”

The letter was also signed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida).

“The message could not be more clear,” the February 14 letter says. “Consequently, we respectfully request that the FDA hasten the rescheduling process and that you provide us with a written response detailing the FDA’s next steps and your timeline for rescheduling hydrocodone combination drugs.”

Reclassification of hydrocodone was rejected by the FDA in 2008, but the Drug Enforcement Agency asked the agency to reconsider because of rising rates of hydrocodone abuse.

Hydrocodone is often combined with other pain relievers such as acetaminophen and aspirin to make combination products like Vicodin. In 2011, U.S. doctors wrote over 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone products, making it the most prescribed drug in the country.

Under current rules, a 30-day prescription for hydrocodone can be refilled five times before a patient has to see a physician again – meaning the prescription would be good for 6 months. If hydrocodone is reclassified as a Schedule II drug, a prescription would only be good for 90 days. No refills will be allowed unless a patient sees a doctor again and a new prescription is written.

Many pain patients with legitimate prescriptions for hydrocodone fear rescheduling will make the painkiller harder to get. Doctors may be reluctant to write prescriptions for hydrocodone and pharmacies worried about being labeled as “pill mills” could refuse to fill the prescriptions.

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor

newest oldest
Notify of

Already get too many scripts for prescription nsaids that don’t work any better than aspirin. When someone goes to the doctor for pain, chances are they need something stronger than an nsaid.


It makes me sick that they are more concerned about drug addicts than those people in real pain. Those who abuse will continue to find a way to get their dope. People in pain will find it harder to obtain the pain relief they so desperately need.

P. Rogers

Fearing reprisals will offer aspirin. Pharmacies fearing overblown calls for inordinate scrutiny will stop carrying them. People who can’t get around due to their conditions and friends with busy lives can’t return for further doctor visits and pharmacy runs if they can even obtain a new prescription. These things I know professionally and from personal experience. And, as I also learn from fellow patients, honest medical providers and scientific research, moderate pain balloons into out-of-control suffering. I have outlined only a couple of the many problems that would come to pass. Drug abuse takes a terrible toll on all segments of the population. Everyone has a role to play in making prescription drugs like Vicodin less accessible. That includes everything from careful probing by prescribers to better placement of their medicines by patients. But you cannot punish the people in pain. And that’s what would happen if this particular medicine is restricted as proposed. Painkillers for people who hurt are not an issue of morality but rather a medical necessity. And the fact is that fulfilling the medical need for so many people with this particular drug is critical. It serves as a bridge for those who require a substance that is not weak but is also not too strong. It’s a moderate link that works for millions. Too much of health care is already inaccessible.

P. Rogers

Have any of these lawmakers or their family members had dental surgery or laproscopic gall bladder removal? Anyone they know been in a car accident and wrenched their neck or back so badly that searing pain takes months to quiet? How about the FDA advisors, drug enforcement agents and their loved ones? If not, they aren’t thinking hard enough. If not, and this measure passes, they better hope they never do. Because so many forms of pain are both more legitimate and last longer than a single bottle of Vicodin can handle. Proposals to increase the controls on this kind of drug — made for moderate pain — cause far more repercussions than appear in the words on paper. Doctors