New Classification For Prescription Painkillers

New Classification For Prescription Painkillers

Hydrocodone is currently the most prescribed painkiller, with nearly 137 million prescriptions for Hydrocodone Combination Products (HCP) in the United States in 2013. The number of overdose deaths due to painkillers has increased.

In 1999 there were 4,000 deaths and in 2010 there were 16,500 deaths, according to Acadia Healthcare. The overdose deaths and the addictive nature of the prescription drugs influenced the decision the make a drug classification change.

Currently Hydrocodone combination drugs are a schedule III drug. As of now, the pills can be refilled up to five times, and can cover a period of 180 days, according to Acadia Healthcare.

The Drug Enforcement Administration moved forward on reclassifying the drugs on August 21, 2014. This will move HCP's to a schedule II drug. That means tighter regulations. 

"Like the rest of the United States, a huge amount of injured or otherwise, are suffering with a pain condition. The most common treatment for that is opiate medication," said Jack Warburton, CEO of Red River Hospital.

Physicians will have to monitor patients taking the prescriptions. People will only be able to receive the drug for 90 days. Then patients will have to schedule appointments to see their physicians if the pain does not subside. 

"It allows the physician to require the patient to be seen in the office more frequently so that the effectiveness of the treatment and the safety can be monitored," said Warburton.

Almost 50 percent of patients seen at Red River Hospital suffer from a prescription pain medication addiction. But the dependency isn't only the patients fault.

"It's typically a combination of both," said Warburton. "Individuals suffering from pain conditions are obviously looking for anything to make them function again. It's because physicians dealing with that type of patient want to supply that to them."

There are many different Hydrocodone combination drugs. Many commons combinations include the mixture of Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen.  That includes Vicodin and Lortab, along with other prescriptions. Even cough suppressants mix with  Hydrocodone and Homatropine. 

The new restrictions will kick in October 6, 2014.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6