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The Prescription Painkiller Problem

If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that I’ve written extensively on the dangers of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin or Vicodin.  From elderly women to our troops, more individuals in this country are becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, with deadly consequences.  But the pharmaceutical giants have pushed back against most attempts to better regulate prescription painkillers, and they’ve pushed back hard for fear of losing the fortune that comes from sales.  Federal regulators rejected additional training for doctors who prescribe powerful narcotic painkillers.  However, it now appears as if the Food and Drug Administration is ready to take some serious action to stem the problem.

FDA Recommends Tighter Controls on Prescription Painkillers

On Thursday, the FDA recommended tighter controls on how doctors prescribe prescription painkillers.  The drugs at issue are those that combine hydrocodone and an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or aspirin.  The policy change would force patients to revisit their doctor more frequently in order to get a prescription refilled, and patients would also have to go in person to the pharmacy to drop off their prescription rather than having a doctor call it in.  Currently, a patient can refill a prescription for painkillers 5-6 times over a six month period before needing to see a doctor again.  The new policy would cut that in half and require patients to return after 90 days of their prescription.

Prescription Painkillers and Addiction

The FDA has rejected pleas from the Drug Enforcement Agency for years that stricter controls are needed on prescription painkillers, so the new move is long-awaited.  Federal data suggests that most patients only need a narcotic painkiller for 14 days, but that is clearly not the norm for many patients.  Prescription drug overdoses account for three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S., with the number from narcotic painkillers quadrupling since 1999.  Drugs containing Hydrocodone represent 70% of all opioid prescriptions, which has led experts to urge for their greater regulation.  Some doctors and pharmacies have continued to fight measures to control prescription painkiller distribution, citing patients’ greater difficulty in acquiring their needed medication.  However, the impact on public health from prescription narcotic abuse has led to the new policy.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for LaxerFL

    I'm all for stricter regulations on powerful pain meds as long as legit patients that can not cope any other way are able to get their meds easily. It is a tight rope to walk... There are people who have no surgical options to reduce their pain levels and for whom medication is the only solution.

    The day a terminal cancer patient can't fill his or her script is the day the regualtions went to far. I agree that prescription narcotics have become an epidemic in the US and that something must be done. I'm just glad I'm not the person who has to decide how to proceed. I wouldn't have a clue how to handle this...

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