An FDA advisory panel on Jan. 25 recommended changing the restriction level on combination drugs containing the opiate hydrocodone. This includes Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, which many people take to manage their fibromyalgia pain.
The recommendation is a response to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which is a serious and potentially fatal problem. However, it could also wrongly limit access to necessary medication for millions of people.
The panel suggested changing the classification of these drugs from schedule III controlled substance to schedule II. If that happens, your doctor would no longer be able to call or fax in a prescription - you would need to pick up a written prescription to take to your pharmacy. Additionally, instead of being able to write it for a six-month supply, your doctor could only write it for three months.
While I understand the need to keep narcotics out of the hands of criminals, I don't think this kind of action will make a big difference to the addiction and abuse problems. Most criminals steal their drugs or use fraudulent prescriptions, so how does putting new burdens on doctors and legitimate pain patients solve a problem?
The FDA usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels. I hope this time, they'll weigh the potential harm against the intended benefits.
What do you think - will the FDA further restrict pain killers? Will this move help solve a problem or just create a new one? Leave your comments below!