Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 30, 2013

Rescheduling hydrocodone: FDA recommendation helpful

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Ongoing efforts in Washington to reclassify hydrocodone combination products as schedule II controlled substances will help when it comes to fighting the deadly scourge of prescription drug abuse in the region.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he was told last week by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the Food and Drug Administration will recommend rescheduling hydrocodone combination drugs from a schedule III to a schedule II controlled substance.

Hydrocodone is a highly addictive substance found in drugs like Vicodin and Lortab. Manchin said the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to make the recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which will immediately begin the reclassification process.

Hydrocodone combination products are currently classified as schedule III drugs — making their distribution more widely accessible and easier to be abused. Under the proposed new rules, a written prescription would be required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of an emergency. Pharmacists would require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers would be subject to harsher fines and penalties.

However, the new rules are not intended to keep seniors, miners, disaster victims and those who suffer from debilitating injuries and rely on medication for chronic pain from having access to the medicine they need. It simply seeks to keep the highly addictive narcotics from those who are illegally abusing them.

“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,” Manchin said. “I want to sincerely thank my good friend Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa for being so helpful in making this possible. I am also extremely grateful that the Food and Drug Administration has finally implemented its own advisory committee’s recommendations to reclassify these addictive drugs. The agency has just saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The abuse of prescription narcotics for illegal purposes is one of the biggest problems faced by law enforcement officials in the Mountain State, according to West Virginia State Police Col. C. R. “Jay” Smithers. Smithers correctly adds that the reclassification of hydrocodone is another important step toward restoring accountability and oversight between medical providers and patients suffering from acute injuries, chronic pain and terminal illness.

While the rescheduling of hydrocodone won’t bring an immediate end to the region’s drug epidemic, it will certainly help. It’s also a step in the right direction when it comes to fighting the rampant abuse of prescription narcotics in our region.