FDA’s Pending Reclassification of Hydrocodone

One of the biggest issues facing physicians and other health care providers is the prescribing of pain medications.   The FDA recently announced its plan to reclassify hydrocodone-containing pain medications from Schedule III to Schedule II.  The new regulations are expected to take effect in 2014.  The reclassification will decrease the number of pills that can be prescribe without obtaining a new prescription.  Currently, patients may refill hydrocodone prescriptions for up to six months, this will likely be shortened to 90 days.

The new regulation, when it goes into effect, will impact physicians in many areas of practice who treat patients with chronic pain symptoms, by requiring more frequent patient visits, and limiting the refills that may be prescribed.  Because physicians and others who practice pain management are often targets of investigations by the Colorado Medical Board, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies, it is advisable to prescribe as if the reclassification has already taken place.  Doctors who are not trained and specialized in pain management should be very cautious before taking on chronic pain patients.  It is nearly always the best course of action to refer chronic pain management patients to a specialist rather than attempting to treat such a difficult patient population.