By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — ALBANY — As of Feb. 23, hydrocodone is a Schedule II drug in New York state.
Under that classification, a separate prescription must be written each time a patient requires more hydrocodone — including any strength, formulation and combination — and automatic refills for the opioid are no longer allowed.
Also included under Schedule II are such drugs as morphine and oxycodone; the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration defines Schedule II drugs as having “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
The change from the less strict Schedule III is part of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP), which was signed into law last year, according to a press release from his office.
“Hydrocodone is highly addictive and widely abused,” he said. “By implementing new rules for hydrocodone, including ensuring followup visits with patients instead of providing automatic refills, medical professionals can prevent more New Yorkers from being trapped in a damaging cycle of addiction.
“This rule change will ensure that those who need pain medication are protected and those who abuse it are detected.”
The law creates an online database that enables doctors and pharmacists to report and track controlled narcotic substances in real time, the Attorney General’s Office said in the release.
The database, with mandated use starting in August, is intended to help decrease over-prescribing and drug trafficking, the release said, as well as help health professionals identify patients who abuse prescription medication.
Prescription drug abuse is the country’s second most prevalent illegal drug problem, according to the release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported hydrocodone as being among a group of opioid drugs that contributes to three out of four medication-overdose deaths nationwide, Schneiderman’s office said in the release.
Drug-overdose deaths rose for the 11th straight year, and the majority of those deaths were accidents involving addictive painkillers, according to the release.
At the federal level, hydrocodone is still designated a Schedule III drug.
On Jan. 25, the federal Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee, which comprises doctors, scientists and pharmacologists, voted 19 to 10 to change hydrocodone from a Schedule III controlled substance to a Schedule II controlled substance.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York City) endorsed the change to stricter regulation of the drug.
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