BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Hydrocodone will soon be harder to abuse, thanks in part to Senator Charles Schumer, who calls the drug "one of the most highly prescribed and abused drugs on the market."
In January of this year, Senator Schumer wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, urging him to reclassify hydrocodone as a Schedule II controlled substance. On Thursday, the FDA Commissioner announced he would heed that call, and make a positive recommendation that all hydrocodone-containing drugs become Schedule II controlled substances.
After the announcement was made, Schumer sent a message on Twitter saying, "Rx drug abuse kills more than heroin & cocaine combined. I'm glad the FDA has recommended tighter controls."
The move holds special significance for Avi Israel, whose son Michael committed suicide in the throes of painkiller addiction. Since then, Israel has led a crusade to have addictive painkillers better regulated, and was integral in getting the I-STOP Law passed, which created an online database to allow doctors to crosscheck each other and make sure patients are not being over-prescribed medications.
"This is the most abused drug on this planet. Doctors prescribe it, people steal it, it's over-prescribed. It's going to be under control now. It's going to save lives," Israel said. "It's overwhelming. I am going from one emotion to the other, smiling in one minute and crying the next. This is huge for this country."
Hydrocodone was previously a Schedule III drug, and the reclassification will change the way doctors prescribe it to patients. Schedule II drugs are those that have the highest potential for addiction and abuse but can still be legally prescribed. A prescription requires a written or electronic signature from a practitioner, and it can not be refilled - a new prescription is needed each time.
A federally-convened drug safety panel recommended reclassifying hydrocodone, and the Senator's letter urged the FDA Commissioner to take action. Now that he has, the recommendations will be move on to the Department of Health and Human Services, which pending a positive recommendation will then move forward to the DEA, which is the agency responsible for the classification system. Schumer says the drug being reclassified by the the DEA is a foregone conclusion, as the agency is where the initial request to have the FDA reclassify hydrocodone came from.
Schumer says despite its high potential for addiction and abuse, hydrocodone has become widely prescribed for everything from wisdom tooth extractions to broken bones. The Senator says oftentimes such strong medications are unnecessary or prescribed in too high a quantity.
As a Schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone is now among drugs like oxycodone, morphine, adderall and ritalin.
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