Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy

Latest Episodes

Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Tech
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy

What’s a Schedule II narcotic?

Amy Scott Oct 25, 2013
Share Now on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The most popular prescription drugs on the market contain a mix of narcotic hydrocodone and an over-the-counter painkiller, like aspirin. You might be more familiar with their brand names like Vicodin and Lortab. They’re the kind of pills people get after a root canal, for instance.

Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration recommended reclassifying those drugs to make them harder for patients to get.

The FDA wants to move hydrocodone combination drugs from a category called Schedule III to Schedule II. That means patients would have to have a written prescription — no more calling it in — and no refills without an actual doctor visit.

For the $8.5 billion painkiller industry, it’s a blow.

“It definitely depresses the demand for that product, and the sales tend to go down,” says consultant David Williams with the Health Business Group.

It’s not just that patients will have to go through more hoops, he says. Schedule II comes with a stigma.

“Now prescribers will realize that these drugs are more dangerous than they may have thought and be less likely to prescribe them,” he says.

Patient advocates and doctors’ groups fought hard against the change. “This burden of having to now physically get themselves to a doctor and get themselves to a pharmacy is a real hardship,” says Cindy Steinberg, national director of policy and advocacy with the U.S. Pain Foundation.

“It’s also a huge expense,” says Bob Twillman with the American Academy of Pain Management. He says patients who used to see a doctor twice a year may have to go as often as once a month.

But prescription painkiller abuse is a growing problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 15,000 people die every year from overdoses involving opioid painkillers.

Addiction often starts with hydrocodone, according to Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. He says the Schedule III designation may have led doctors to overprescribe drugs like Vicodin.

“That was communicating to the medical community that they don’t have to worry so much about Vicodin,” he says. “And that’s completely not true.”

But just a day after the FDA recommended tighter restrictions on drugs containing hydrocodone, the agency announced it had approved an even stronger one. Today, new drug Zohydro got the go-head for patients with constant pain that doesn’t respond to other treatment.

If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air.  But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.

Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.

When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.