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Big change to make it harder for patients to get pain killers like Vicodin

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DENVER — There are sweeping changes when it comes to popping the most common painkiller in the country.

The federal government is making it more difficult for Americans to get their hands on hydrocodone.

It’s all in a move to reduce the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

Hydrocodone is found in drugs like Vicodin, which is normally taken to kill pain.

But it also kills thousands of Americans who abuse it every year.

“There is a small percentage of people that abuse it, statistically that translates into a lot of big numbers. A lot of people need it for pain control,” says Gina Moore, with the CU Skaggs School Of Pharmacy.

But getting that pain relief will require a little more effort according to Moore.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is reclassifying hydrocodone-combination drugs from a Schedule 3 Controlled Substance, to the more restrictive Schedule 2.

The highest, says Moore, are Schedule 1 drugs that have no legitimate medical purpose and the highest dependence and abuse. They include: marijuana, ecstasy and heroin.

“I think we are going to have angry patients that are used to getting their Vicodin called in,” says Moore.

Starting October 6, doctors can no longer phone in a prescription.

Instead, patients will have to see their doctor to get a new written prescription.

“So the concern is patient access,” says Moore.

She says critics say the change places a significant burden on patients in chronic pain, who have a harder time making it to the doctor.

“The patients with low back pain, those are your chronic users, they tend to use a lot of it, they get called in a lot of medications,” says Moore.

That’s who she says will feel the biggest impact–less so are dental, post-surgery and cancer patients, whose medications are more well-managed.

“Hopefully by controlling the use of it, there will be less exposure, less deaths, although that remains to be seen,” says Moore.

She says it’s possible people could move on to other prescriptions drugs or illicit ones like heroin.

Pharmacies will also feel the impact because they’ll have to increase their record-keeping and storage requirements.

The drug has to be kept locked up.


  • Anonymous

    I think the worst thing for people who are truly suffering with pain – now with the change, doctors will become more hesitant to prescribe the medication. I don’t care if I need to see my doctor for the prescription “I” understand that. I also don’t think it is a problem that people with chronic pain have to take urine test – again – “I” understand that. However when a patient says Dr. this medication helped me and this one didn’t – and the patient follows the rules and the patient has obvious easy to see pain issues – then don’t threaten the drs. Don’t scare them so they feel they don’t even want to mess with a certain medication because of the potential they could be punished.

  • tina

    I Am A Chronic Pain Suffer For More Reason Than One. I don’t mind playing by the rules but if it becomes a fight to survive over a few idiots I personally will fight my rights as an free tax paying American that has the legitimate right to not be in severe pain.

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