By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for tighter restrictions on drugs containing hydrocodone.
In 2011, 47 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone-based medications, he said at a recent press conference.
And the Centers for Disease Control reported more deaths from opiate overdoses than overdoses from heroin and cocaine combined, Schumer (D-NY) said.
“Currently, doctors prescribe this drug for anything,” even for such minor pain that results from wisdom-tooth removal, Schumer said.
“There are other less potent and less deadly drugs that could be prescribed.”
‘FRACTION OF CASES’
In 2011, 1,070 cases of prescription-drug abuse were reported in the North Country, according to the Upstate Poison Control Center.
Schumer said those represent only a fraction of the total.
“There are many other cases where people are in trouble.”
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.
Five federal schedule classifications exist for drugs. Included under Schedule II are such drugs as morphine and oxycodone. Automatic refills included in a single prescription for Schedule II drugs are prohibited. A new prescription must be written each time the patient requires the drug, Schumer said.
And if a doctor prescribes a patient multiple 90-day prescriptions for Schedule II drugs, the order must include a legitimate medical purpose for each drug and have written instructions on each prescription, he said. The doctor must also indicate that there is not a risk of the drug being abused.
“The bad news is it’s only a recommendation,” Schumer said. “It wasn’t unanimous, so the FDA is a little more reluctant to enact it.”
Schumer said the Department of Heath and Human Services has already said it will accept the committee’s recommendations and reclassify the drug.
While New York state already classifies hydrocodone as a Schedule II drug, its success has been limited because of drug trafficking across state lines, Schumer said.
He referred to Interstate 95 as a “sort of drug-abuse freeway,” highlighting the large amounts of medications that are in constant transport.
But, some peopleare concerned that tightening restrictions on hydrocodone could make it more difficult for people who need the drug for pain management or other reasons.
“No one is trying to take it away from people who need it,” Schumer said.
“We must do more so that our children, parents, spouses and friends don’t continue to fall prey to these drugs.”
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