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Hydrocodone-Containing Painkillers Under Scrutiny of FDA

Update Date: Jan 25, 2013 06:58 AM EST

All painkillers containing the opioid hydrocodone have come under the microscope of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and an advisory panel will discuss the matter shortly to decide their fate.

There is also a discussion whether to label Vicodin into a higher category, as it contains both hydrocodone and acetaminophen. This is to stop these pain killers from getting used for wrong purposes. Some other painkillers like Oxycontin and Percocet, both containing opioid, have already been changed to a higher category.

Vicodin is currently classified as schedule III drugs, however, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has asked the FDA advisory panel to re-evaluate and recommend whether the sale of Vicodin can be made more stringent by re-classifying it as schedule II drugs instead. Once the advisory panel has reached a decision, it will be up to the FDA to accept or reject the decision. However, the FDA tends to accept the decision of its advisory panel in a majority of the cases.

According to a study made by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, from the year 2002 almost 22 million Americans have exploited the drug directly or indirectly. In fact, after marijuana, painkillers are the second most drugs of abuse.

The issue has raised a concern that it might become difficult for legitimate users of these paid drugs to gain access to these medicines. This concern has been negated by Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

"Even if we change hydrocodone-containing products from Schedule III to Schedule II, it in no way jeopardizes access. What this means is that patients who might be able to go to their doctor every six months would now have to see their doctor every three months [to get a prescription]. People who are on long-term opioids more likely to be harmed by that treatment than helped. There is a very little difference between a heroin molecule and a hydrocodone molecule." Dr. Kolodny was quoted as saying in Medicalxpress.

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