A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has recommended that the regulatory agency reclassify the drug hydrocodone, Vicodin’s active ingredient to a schedule II narcotic to help stem the epidemic of deaths due to prescription drugs.
The advisory panel voted 19 to 10 to recommend to the FDA to reclassify the drug. The reclassification would put the drug in the same category as medications that have been widely abused such as fentanyl and OxyContin. If the change is approved by the FDA, patients would receive fewer pills of hydrocodone in each prescription and refills would have tougher restrictions. In addition, those pharmacies handling prescriptions would have stricter guidelines for storing and handling the drug.
The most restrictive government category for pharmaceuticals is Schedule II. At the current time, hydrocodone is a Schedule III drug. Ninety-nine percent of all hydrocondone produced across the globe is consumed in the United States and more prescriptions are written by doctors for the drug than for the leading hypertension medication and antibiotic.
Prescription drugs, most notably narcotic painkillers like hydrocondone, contribute to or cause more deaths that cocaine and heroin combined. Because of that, fatalities due to drugs have surpassed deaths caused by crashes of motor vehicles, which for many decades had been the leading cause of deaths due to accident in the U.S.
The drug has been prescribed for four decades and with very few restrictions. Because it is perceived to be less risky than some of the other painkillers that are narcotics, hydrocodone is widely prescribed by dentists as well as general practitioners.
However, officials in drug enforcement had complained for many years that hydrocondone is highly addictive causing it to be widely abused.