Local doctors react to new restrictions on hydrocodone
POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 5:20pm
UPDATED: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 10:36am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — If you use prescription painkillers like Vicodin, they will now be harder to get. It's all part of an effort to cut back on the abuse of these types of drugs, which has been a growing problem for quite some time.
Basically, it means if you take any medicine that contains hydrocodone, you now have to see your doctor more often to get a refill.
Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in the U.S. Experts estimate there are seven million people living with the problem right now and the numbers are on the rise. East Baton Rouge Coroner Beau Clark said it's a big problem here too, interfering with, and even taking lives.
"The majority of drug-related deaths that we see in our community are what we call multi-drug toxicity," Clark said. "It's the combination of different drugs."
Hyrdocodone is a drug found in a lot of painkillers. Some of the more common ones, Vicodin and Loratab, used to be pretty easy to get, but not anymore.
"Is it good that we're moving hydrocodone to Schedule II? Absolutely. It means that we can start assist in the division side of things trying to control the distribution," Clark explained.
DEA officials are putting more restrictions on hydrocodone because it's highly addictive. Clark said it's often a "gateway" drug, which means it can lead those who become addicted to even harder drugs.
"A lot of these folks will tell you, even if they are using heroine now, the majority of their addictions started when they have their first hydrocodone pill or oxycodone pill on the other end and it kind of built up over time," Clark said.
Now patients will only be able to get a three month prescription and have to see a doctor to get a refill.
"It might cut down on the abuse. So if they have to go see the doctor every 90 days every 60 days to get the medication to pay for their appointment, they may think twice about getting or abusing the medications," said Kelsey Bailey.
Bailey thinks these new restrictions are a good thing, but she is concerned about what it could mean for patients.
"You have to look at the cost. Is that going to hike up the cost for the consumer?," Bailey questioned. "Which maybe a good thing for the doctor, but not so much for someone who's already struggling to pay for their medication."
However,Dr. James Rhorer, the medical director of the ER at Our Lady of the Lake, that should not be a problem.
"This is what this monitoring and regulation is about. It's not about judging people. It's about protecting people," Rhorer explained. "These obstacles can be overcome, and that we could potentially develop a much stronger patient-physician relationship."
Rhorer said these new restrictions are needed because prescription drug abuse is a problem that's too big to ignore.
"This was something that needed to be addressed."
The DEA has worked for years trying to get these restrictions into place. They will go into effect here October 6th.