Hydrocodone Reclassification Compounds Some Patients’ Pain
Minutes into a conversation, Diane Heilmann rearranges the pillows on her sofa and changes positions gingerly. She’s not concerned about appearances. She’s following medical advice.
Heilmann, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, knows the other techniques that can ease her pain: rest, alternating heat and cold, pacing activities to reduce stress, massage. Nothing, however, can control her symptoms like medication, often the only relief for arthritis patients.
“If I don’t take my medications, I live in pain,” she said.
That’s why the 69-year-old former Bullhead City, Ariz., city clerk and her husband, Brian, were stunned by new rules for her primary pain medication, Norco, a combination of hydrocodone, an opioid pain reliever, and acetaminophen, Tylenol’s active ingredient.
Hydrocodone combination products often are prescribed for patients with painful chronic diseases. Some patients worry they might have trouble filling their prescriptions because of the new rules, which took effect Oct. 6. Some patients are learning of the change from their pharmacists.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has reclassified hydrocodone combination products from schedule III to schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act, which will more tightly restrict access. For example, patients seeking Vicodin, Lortab or Norco 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 biggest change for the Heilmanns is the requirement that she see her doctor every month instead of every three months. Brian Heilmann considers the added visits not just unnecessary but an activity that could complicate his wife’s condition. Movement is one of the factors that aggravates Diane Heilmann’s arthritis.
The regulation is a response to widespread misuse of prescription painkillers, but some patients, doctors and pharmacists complain the new rules restrict access indiscriminately.
While acknowledging the added hardship for some patients, Dr. Larry Pinson, Nevada Board of Pharmacy’s executive director, said some action was needed because of the increase in abuse and adverse events related to opioid painkillers. Ninety-nine percent of the hydrocodone produced worldwide is consumed in the United States, Pinson said.
More people in Southern Nevada die from prescription drug overdoses than methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine combined, according to Kent Bitsko of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. Bitsko’s task force provides assistance to local law enforcement agencies because Southern Nevada is a significant drug-trafficking region of the United States.
Prescription medications nearly have overtaken marijuana as the gateway drug for people who become addicts, Bitsko said.
Methamphetamine is the top narcotics concern for law enforcement, Bitsko said, but abuse of prescription painkillers is second. More oversight of prescription medications makes acquiring those drugs more difficult, and many abusers eventually seek alternatives.
“When they can no longer get hydrocodone, they turn to heroin,” Bitsko said.
I have degenerative osteo arthritis which has been effectively controlled by Vicodin and Norco for years.
I picked up the new, watermarked, schedule II prescription at my doctor’s this afternoon, but can’t find a pharmacy to fill it because their dispensing software hasn’t been reconfigured. They estimate April 2015. WTF.
I can’t take ibuprofen because of a nasty allergic reaction.
I honestly don’t know WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING. The “Dr. House” TV series portrayed a completely ridiculous scenario of “Vicodin addicts.” Vicodin might make you sleepy but it does not get you high. Norco does not even have the side effects of Vicodin, it is completely a pain management tool.
Yes any drug can be abused but what about millions of people WHO LIVE IN CHRONIC PAIN. These medications allow us to live a normal life.
PAIN FUCKS YOU UP.
I shouldn’t even feel too sorry for myself because they are even denying this medication to
Now they’re predicting that people will turn to street drugs. What an improvement! Medical marijuana (legal in MI with a prescription but impossible to obtain legally) is probably the safest and best option, obviously it is not an option.