DEA adopts tighter controls on hydrocodone combination drugs

The DEA announced on Thursday that it would place tighter controls on prescription medications that contain the active ingredient hydrocodone.

The agency’s policy change reflects legislation introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) to reschedule hydrocodone combination drugs from a schedule III drug to a schedule II drug, which makes them harder to prescribe and obtain. Buchanan introduced the Safe Prescribing Act in March 2013.

“(Thursday’s) announcement is a win for every man, woman and child who has endured the horrors of prescription drug abuse,” Buchanan said. “We are one giant step closer to curbing an epidemic that wreaks havoc on countless families and communities across our state.”

Under the reclassification of hydrocodone combination drugs, pharmacists require an original prescription from a patient for refills and traffickers face harsher fines and penalties.

“(Thursday’s) action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said.

Although the United States accounts for 4.6 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 99 percent of the hydrocodone produced globally. Since 2004, emergency room visits related to the drug have jumped from 38,000 to more than 115,000 as it has become the most widely prescribed painkiller in the country.