Painkiller restrictions may harm care, experts say

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Nursing home residents could be adversely affected if proposed painkiller regulations are put in place, according to experts who spoke at a recent federal hearing. After meeting for two days last week at the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Maryland, the panel voted 19-10 to make it tougher to access hydrocodone painkillers such as Vicodin.

Under the regulations, patients would have to obtain new prescriptions for refills and would not be able to obtain these by fax or phone. Critics say this would hurt nursing home residents with mobility issues who would have to visit a physician to get needed drugs. Among other proposed changes, nurse practitioners and physician assistants would no longer be able to prescribe hydrocodone, and distributors would have to store the drugs in vaults. The FDA is likely to accept the proposed changes, according to several industry analysts. The Department of Health and Human Services would then have to approve them.

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