The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has published a Final Rule in the Federal Register that moves hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) from Schedule III to the more-restrictive Schedule II. This goes into effect on October 6, 2014 and will affect pharmacies and various healthcare organizations across the country, including Logansport Memorial Hospital. The move of these HCPs was decided based on a recent recommendation from the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the official press release. That recommendation was also supported by the DEA’s own evaluation and data collection.
So what is the difference, and why make this move? The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places substances with accepted medical uses into one of four schedules, from II to V. Schedule I classification is reserved for controlled substances that are not currently accepted for medical use or have a lack of accepted safety in use. Substances that have the highest potential for harm and/or abuse are placed in Schedule II. Most other substances with less potential for harm and/or abuse are placed in Schedules III through V. HCPs are drugs that contain both hydrocodone and specified amounts of other substances, like acetaminophen or aspirin. Hydrocodone by itself is classified as a Schedule II drug; thus it makes sense to move these HCPs to that schedule as well.
“We continue to remain focused on patient safety and quality of care when administering drugs for our patients, whether it’s here at the hospital, writing a prescription for them to take with them, or filling those prescriptions in Community Pharmacy,” comments Geoffrey Lee, Pharmacy Director at Logansport Memorial Hospital. “This DEA action to move HCPs to Schedule II is something we want patients to be aware of, so they can better understand the medications they are taking or that have been prescribed to them. Of course, we will always aim to educate patients and answer any questions they might have about what they have been prescribed to take,” he says. “We also continue to monitor influential decisions like these from the DEA to ensure we are aligned in doing what’s right for our patients.”
According to the official press release, almost seven million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers. This results in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than deaths from auto accidents. This action recognizes that HCPs are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available, and can help to keep patients and consumers safer during prescription drug therapy and treatment.