The federal government will tighten restrictions on narcotic painkillers made with hydrocodone in order to curb the widespread abuse of prescription opioids.
Under new rules published Friday by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), patients seeking painkillers such as Vicodin, the most widely prescribed drug in the United States, will only be allowed one 90-day prescription and would have to see a doctor to get a refill. Doctors won’t be allowed to call in the prescriptions on the phone, and in some states, nurses or physician assistants won’t be able to prescribe the drugs. Pharmacies will be required to keep the drugs in special vaulted areas.
The new restrictions, which go into effect in 45 days, will re-classify hydrocodone combination drugs like Vicodin and Lortab in the same category as codeine and oxycodone, which are considered Schedule II drugs because of their high potential for abuse.
“Almost 7 million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents,” DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said in a release. “Today’s action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.”