Sen. Charles Schumer is urging the Food and Drug Administration to reduce access to hydrocodone, but the change would do little for New York State, where the drug is already restricted.
Approval of the recommendation would reclassify hydrocodone as a Schedule II drug at the federal level. The reclassification would place it on the same tier as a class of drugs that includes methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.
According to Schumer's release there were 1,070 reported cases of prescription drug abuse in the North Country in 2011.
Local law enforcement agencies have also cited prescription drugs as a major problem throughout St. Lawrence County, but Schumer’s proposal would not impact New York State directly because hydrocodone is already considered a Schedule II drug here.
Despite that fact, Schumer said the federal government needs to make the change "to ensure that abusers or dealers cannot easily obtain the drug from neighboring states."
In a press release Schumer said hydrocodone is among the most widely prescribed drug in New York and the country, has rapidly increased in abuse levels, and is highly dangerous.
He said that in 2011, the Upstate New York Poison Control Center reported over 12,800 cases of prescription drug abuse. Over the past year, Schumer has worked closely and effectively with the FDA to help stem the abuse of hydrocodone, and highlighted the importance of policy that strikes a balance between appropriate access to pain relief medications, and preventing prescription drugs from getting in the wrong hands.
“Each day that passes means rising abuse, and even death, at the hands of hydrocodone-based drugs,” said Schumer. “With a key hurdle recently cleared, the FDA must tighten up control of one of the most highly prescribed – and abused – drugs on the Upstate New York market.”
Outside of New York State the changes would make it harder to access the drug.
Schedule II controlled substances require a written or electronic prescription which must be signed by the practitioner. The refilling of a prescription for a controlled substance listed in Schedule II is prohibited, therefore a new prescription must be issued each time a patient needs a refill.
Schumer noted that in terms of issuance of multiple prescriptions for Schedule II substances, an individual practitioner may issue multiple prescriptions authorizing the patient to receive a total of up to a 90-day supply of a schedule II controlled substance provided several conditions, including a legitimate medical purpose for each drug, written instructions on each prescription, determination that undue risk of abuse is not created, and permissibility under state law.