In New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a letter to doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals alerting them that the widely abused prescription painkiller hydrocodone is now a Schedule II controlled substance under new regulations recently passed by the state. In the letter, Schneiderman calls the drug “highly addictive,” noting that statewide prescriptions for hydrocodone filled increased from 3.8 million to 4.5 million from 2007 to 2009, an increase of 18.4%, while those for oxycodone have increased 82%. In many regions of the state, hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed controlled substance, according to the letter.
The changes apply only to New York state, although the FDA is currently considering whether to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers from Schedule III drugs to the more restrictive Schedule II on a federal level. In January, an expert panel voted 19 to 10 in favor of the more stringent prescribing requirements. During a two-day hearing last week, the panel heard testimony from proponents who noted hydrocodone’s abuse potential (such products are currently the most-abused prescription medicine behind oxycodone), while critics argued that the move would hinder legitimate pain patients from obtaining treatment.
Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York, where almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in in 2010, according to a report issued by the state’s attorney general.
Read more about the prescription addiction epidemic in New York here.