Hydrocodone may move to controlled-substance category


An FDA advisory committee voted in favor of moving hydrocodone combination drugs into the restrictive “Schedule II” category of controlled substances.

An FDA advisory committee voted 19 to 10 in favor of moving hydrocodone combination drugs such as Vicodin, Lortab and Norco into the more restrictive “Schedule II” category of controlled substances.

“Hydrocodone-containing products including hydrocodone combination products and hydrocodone used as an antitussive should be moved from Schedule III to Schedule II,” Panelist Mary Ellen Olsbrisch, PhD, professor of psychiatry and surgery, and clinical psychologist, department of psychiatry, at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va., says.

According to Olsbrisch, the available scientific evidence shows that hydrocodone produces drug dependence of the same severity as morphine and oxycodone, drugs which are on Schedule II because of the severity of drug dependence that they can create.  

“The panel was concerned about an epidemic of addiction to opiate pain medications in this country, about morbidity and mortality connected with this epidemic, and about hydrocodone's role as a ‘gateway’ drug,” she says.  

FDA still must decide whether to accept the panel’s recommendation.

“If it does, chronic pain patients who are on long-term treatment with hydrocodone products probably will have to see their physicians more frequently and will not be able to receive longer-term prescriptions with multiple refills,” says Olbrisch.

According to AddictionWithdrawal.com, hydrocodone is used in more than 200 different prescription medications, including some cough suppressants. Most cases of addiction are among women between aged 20 and 40 years. In addition, cases of hydrocodone addiction are growing among teens due to the ease of availability.

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