and Medicine for Seniors
Pain Killers with Hydrocodone Will Be Harder to Get
Patients generally must present a
written prescription, doctors will no longer be able to call in a
By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health
Sept. 26, 2014 - Patients who use
drugs containing hydrocodone as a pain reliever or cough suppressant are
going to have to jump through more hoops to get them starting next
month. The Drug Enforcement Administration is reclassifying so-called
“hydrocodone combination products” from Schedule III to Schedule II
under the Controlled Substances Act, which will more tightly restrict
Vicodin, for example, is an
HCP because it has hydrocodone and
The final regulation, which takes
effect Oct. 6, will mean that patients generally must present a written
prescription to receive the drug, and doctors will no longer be able to
call in a prescription to the pharmacy in most instances. The
regulation is a response to
the widespread misuse of prescription pain killers.
Help for Seniors
citizens take a plethora of prescription drugs for the many
health problems they experience.
"According to the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or
SAMHSA, three in 10 elderly people ages 57-85 are prescribed at
least five medications for their health issues.
"What is more is
that many of these people take hydrocodone for pain related to
problems like arthritis or orthopedic complications.
"In short, senior
citizens may become addicted to this powerful painkiller, so
seek professional help to manage not only the addiction, but
also any other physical conditions your loved one has."
Read more at -
In an emergency, doctors will still
be able to call in a prescription, according to the new rule. And
although prescription refills are prohibited, a doctor can, at his
discretion, issue multiple prescriptions that would provide up
to a 90-day supply.
These measures don’t satisfy
consumer advocates or pharmacists who are opposed to the new rule.
While acknowledging that there has
been an uptick in abuse and adverse events related to opioid
painkillers, one patient advocate says the new rule restricts access
“We certainly want steps taken to
reduce adverse outcomes, but we don’t think this particular rescheduling
was the appropriate way to go about doing that,” says Mark Fleury, a
policy analyst at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Many patients with painful chronic
diseases, including cancer, take hydrocodone combination products.
Experts say they’re worried that
patients may have trouble filling their prescriptions immediately after
Although pharmacies can sell what
they have in stock, their suppliers must re-label HCPs as Schedule II
drugs before they can be sold.
"We've heard from distributors and
manufacturers that they don't expect to have the appropriately labeled
product to fill demand," Fleury says.
Pharmacists say they’re
anticipating confusion around refills of prescriptions written before
the regulation takes effect, even though they’re permitted under the new
“We're hearing that because of
discrepancies in state law, payers may not want to authorize refills,”
says Stacie Maass, a senior vice president at the American Pharmacists
In the long term, Fleury says,
patients who don’t yet know there are new rules about refills will show
up at pharmacies and likely be turned away.
“All of these patients are going to
find out they don’t have a valid prescription, and have to go in and get
a new one,” Fleury says. Adding insult to injury, they may get dinged
with an office visit charge for their new prescription.
>> More from this series
Insuring Your Health at Kaiser Health News