WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers has co-sponsored the “Safe Prescribing Act of 2013” introduced Wednesday.
The federal bipartisan bill aims to combat prescription drug abuse by tightening restrictions on some of the most powerful addictive narcotics on the market. The “Safe Prescribing Act of 2013” reclassifies hydrocodone painkillers, such as Vicodin and Lortab, from Schedule III to Schedule II controlled substances to accurately reflect their high potential for addiction and abuse.
“Hundreds of Kentucky families are suffering the deadly consequences of prescription drug-related deaths every year and its time we move these powerful painkillers to a more accurate category for prescribers,” said Rogers. “Hydrocodone drugs are far too often, over-prescribed and over-used, and we cannot ignore the resulting devastating effects that are sweeping across the nation.”
While the United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 99 percent of its hydrocodone. Emergency room visits involving hydrocodone rose from 38,000 in 2004 to more than 115,000 in 2010. These drugs are now the most widely prescribed painkillers in the U.S. The DEA has supported this change since 1994 and an expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently voted 19-10 in favor of re-classifying hydrocodone painkillers as Schedule II controlled substances. Several members of Congress, including Rogers, have since urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to adopt the board’s recommendation immediately.
The restrictions on prescribing and using Schedule III drugs are much less stringent than those for Schedule II products. Under Schedule II, a written prescription would be required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of emergency. Pharmacists would require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers would be subject to harsher fines and penalties.
The “Safe Prescribing Act of 2013” has been co-sponsored by more than 40 bipartisan members of Congress.
At the 2013 National Rx Drug Abuse Summit April 2-4 in Orlando, Florida, Rogers will deliver a keynote address and participate in a Congressional Panel on Prescription Drug Abuse. In 2009, Rogers joined with former Representative Mary Bono Mack to form the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse.