By CHAD ABSHIRE
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the FDA’s Safety and Innovation Act yesterday, reclassifying drugs containing hydrocodone as schedule II substances.
As a result, patients will need an original prescription for refills, pills will be stored and transported more securely, and traffickers will be subject to increased fines and penalties. Hydrocodone, a highly-addictive substance, is found in drugs like Vicodin and Lortab.
The amendment was bipartisan, and featured both senators from the State of West Virginia helping introduce it: Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller (both D-W.Va.). They were joined by Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer (both D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Il.)
“Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is destroying communities across the nation, wreaking havoc on our education system, devastating our workforce and our economy, and tearing our families apart,” Manchin said. “This is not a problem unique to West Virginia.
“Yet, in every place I have traveled in my state, I have heard from residents, community leaders, students, school principals, business owners, representatives from law enforcement and everyone in between: drug abuse is a major problem facing their communities and its effects are very far-reaching.”
In 2010 alone, pharmacies dispensed the equivalent of 42 tons of pure hydrocodone — enough to give 24 Vicodin pills to every single person in the United States.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs which are subject to abuse and can have harmful effects are classified and regulated according to five schedules, based on their potential for abuse and medicinal usage. Schedule I contains the most dangerous substances and is the most restricted, while Schedule V is the most permissive category of drugs.
Currently, pure hydrocodone is considered a Schedule II drug. However, when certain quantities of hydrocodone are combined with substances like Tylenol, they are listed in a less stringent category, Schedule III. The bipartisan amendment eliminates the exemption in Schedule III for hydrocodone-combination drugs, so that all substances containing hydrocodone – including Vicodin and Lortab – will now fall into Schedule II.
“We absolutely must fight back against the epidemic of prescription drug
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