Long-term care advocates denounce FDA over new hydrocodone restrictions

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced it will seek restricted access to hydrocodone painkillers, prompting a concerned response from long-term care stakeholders.
 
Hydrocodone drugs such as Vicodin are commonly prescribed for pain relief, but are implicated in prescription drug abuse that many say has reached epidemic levels. Lawmakers and agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration have pressed the FDA to move hydrocodone products from a Schedule III to a Schedule II classification. On Thursday, the FDA announced it will do so.
 
If accepted, the move would mean that nurses and other allied health professionals would not be able to prescribe these drugs, and automatic prescription refills would be limited. Healthcare providers and trade associations have argued that tightening controls around hydrocodone would harm patients who rely on it to relieve chronic pain. Many of these individuals are elderly and reside in long-term care facilities.
 
"The FDA's reported decision will likely pose significant hardships for many patients and delay relief for vulnerable patients with legitimate chronic pain, especially those in nursing home and long-term care," stated Kevin Schweers, a spokesman for the National Community Pharmacists Association.
 
Federal agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services still must sign off before hydrocodone is reclassified, and the FDA in March told legislators that this process could be lengthy. However, lawmakers were quick to applaud the FDA's decision last week.
 
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said the reclassification would save “hundreds of thousands of lives.”
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