The federal government announced that more than 65 prescription medications containing the most widely-prescribed painkiller, hydrocodone, will now be subject to new, stricter federal prescribing rules as of this past week.
The new regulations published by the DEA will make medications which contain hydrocodone subject to the same restrictions as other narcotics such as oxycodone and morphine.
The rules cover an array of prescription painkillers which combine hydrocodone with other analgesics such as, acetaminophen (Vicodin) or ibuprofen (Reprexain), as well as some prescription cough medications, all of which will be now be regulated as schedule II drugs.
The move was made in an effort to curb the abuse of these medications by limiting how they can be prescribed.
Hydrocodone has been listed as a schedule II drug since the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act in 1971, but many hydrocodone-containing medications remained in the less restrictive, schedule III category.
Among the changes in prescribing rules for hydrocodone-containing medications:
* A verbal prescription is allowed only in emergencies and a written prescription must follow within seven days or the pharmacist will notify the DEA
* Faxed, original prescriptions are permitted for home infusion/IV pain therapy, long-term-care facilities and hospices or terminally-ill patients.
* Prescriptions are limited to 30-day supplies, but prescribers may write up to three separate prescriptions, each for up to a one-month supply. Prescriptions will be void after 90 days.
State Health officials are encouraging doctors and other health professionals to use electronic prescribing for all schedule II medications.