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Friday, January 25, 2013

DEA Wants New Vicodin Restrictions

Pain management is very difficult to monitor effectively, as a result an epidemic has developed in this country beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. One of the key factors leading to the epidemic is that doctors are unable to deny patients adequate pain relief, even if there are no clear indicators that a patient is actually in pain. Doctors prescribe more Vicodin (containing the ingredient hydrocodone) than any other narcotic on the market which has brought the drug to the attention of the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has put forth a proposal to more tightly control prescriptions of drugs containing the ingredient hydrocodone which has started a fiery debate among doctors, according to NPR.

Since the year 2000, hydrocodone related incidents have sent people to the emergency room at staggering rates. Unlike many other opiate narcotics, Vicodin contains acetaminophen, which makes the drug subject to fewer regulations than pure hydrocodone.

The DEA has called for stricter regulation of Vicodin, in order to reduce abuse of the drug for almost an entire decade. The DEA hopes to change the way drugs like Vicodin which combine hydrocodone with other products are classified, requiring patients to have more interaction with doctors in order to obtain prescriptions for them.

One of the leaders for Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, Andrew Kolodney, wants opioids to be used only for patients who absolutely need them, like cancer patients. “This epidemic has been fueled by overprescribing of opioids, particularly for chronic noncancer pain, whether it’s low back pain, headaches,” he told NPR. “I think that’s really created a public health crisis.”

Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing would like the Food and Drug Administration to rewrite labels on opioids to state that physicians should write prescriptions only for severe pain and at much lower doses. The group wants prescriptions for the drugs to be written for a maximum of 90 days at a time. “The way to begin to turn the epidemic around is by getting doctors to prescribe more cautiously,” Kolodney said.  

A committee of the FDA will meet January 24 and 25 to consider the DEA’s request.

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