In efforts to curb the abuse of prescription drugs across America, the Food and Drug Administration voted on Friday to toughen regulations on painkillers, such as Vicodin that contain hydrocodone.
The recommendation from the panel made up of doctors, scientists and other experts would limit access to the dangerous drugs by making them harder to prescribe. This is in hopes of stemming the growing problem of addiction to painkillers, which continues to plague communities across the United States.
These restrictions could lead to changes for doctors, pharmacists and patients, including no refills without a new prescription and no prescriptions by fax or phone. Only written prescriptions will be allowed. Distributors would also be required to store the drugs in special vaults.
However, the vote for tougher restrictions was no unanimous. Some on the panel argued that the changes could hurt nursing home patients, who can't make it to the doctor's office frequently, as well as ban nurse practitioners and physician assistants from prescribing the painkillers. Those opposed also argued that the changes could lead to an increase of abuse of other drugs such as heroin.
Pain killers currently kill more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined, and since 2008 have led to more deaths than car accidents. Prescription drugs also account for three-quarters of all drug overdoses, with the number of deaths quadrupling since 1999. Oxycodone and methadone products account for two-thirds of drug overdose deaths.
This vote comes after similar legislation in Congress failed last year, after aggressive lobbying by pharmacists and drug stores.
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Source: The New York Times, "F.D.A Likely to Add Limits on Painkillers," Jan. 28, 2013.