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Friday, August 22, 2014

New Restrictions On Hydrocodone To Take Effect

Hydrocodone pills, also known as Vicodin, are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (Toby Talbot/AP)

Hydrocodone pills, also known as Vicodin, are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (Toby Talbot/AP)

The federal government is finalizing new restrictions on hundreds of medicines containing hydrocodone, the highly addictive painkiller that has grown into the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S.

The new rules mean that drugs like Vicodin, Lortab and their generic equivalents will be subject to the same prescribing rules as painkillers like codeine and oxycodone.

Patients will be limited to one 90-day supply of medication and will have to see a health care professional to get a refill. In many states, only doctors will be able to prescribe the medications, not nurses or physician assistants.

The move, announced in a federal notice, comes more than a decade after the Drug Enforcement Administration first recommended reclassifying hydrocodone due to its risks for abuse and addiction. For years, physician groups and the Food and Drug Administration opposed the move, saying it would burden health care providers and patients while driving up costs.

But last year the FDA changed its position, citing the national epidemic of overdoses and deaths tied to prescription painkillers known as opioids.

Guest

  • Eric Collins, M.D., physician-in-chief at Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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