U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) applauds today's announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to re-classify America's most abused painkillers, hydrocodone combo drugs, to reflect the high potential for addiction and abuse. The FDA's decision follows an expert advisory panel's recommendation to re-classify painkillers like Vicodin and Lortab from Schedule III to Schedule II controlled substances.
"This is a huge, life-saving victory in the fight against the prescription drug abuse epidemic," said Rogers, co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. "The FDA has wisely tightened restrictions on these powerful painkillers in response to the skyrocketing rate of pain pill addiction that has swept the country. I believe this will lead to smarter medicine and a reduction in the deadly consequences of abuse and misuse of these hydrocodone drugs. I applaud the serious leadership on this issue of FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg."
While the United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world's population, it consumes 99 percent of its hydrocodone. Emergency room visits involving hydrocodone rose from 38,000 in 2004 to more than 115,000 in 2010. These drugs are now the most widely prescribed painkillers in the U.S. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has supported this change since 1994 and an expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently voted 19-10 in favor of re-classifying hydrocodone painkillers as Schedule II controlled substances. Earlier this year, several members of Congress, including Rogers, urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to adopt the board's recommendation immediately. In March, Rogers also joined more than 40 bipartisan members of Congress to co-sponsor the "Safe Prescribing Act of 2013" (H.R. 1285).
The restrictions on prescribing and using Schedule III drugs are much less stringent than those for Schedule II products. Under Schedule II, a written prescription is required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of emergency. Pharmacists must require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers are be subject to harsher fines and penalties.
Click here to read the FDA statement from the director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Dr. Janet Woodcock.
In 2009, Rogers joined with former Representative Mary Bono Mack to form the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. Rogers has served Kentucky's 5th Congressional District since 1981. With a focus on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drugs and preserving Appalachia's natural treasures, he has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the region he represents. For more information, visit http://halrogers.house.gov or follow Rogers on Twitter and Facebook.