With a sharp rise of prescription drug misuse and abuse across our nation, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has initiated several campaigns, at the federal level, to address this epidemic. One of their latest regulatory actions, that was implemented earlier this month, was the Final Rule rescheduling hydrocodone combination products. The rule reclassified all drugs containing the opioid hydrocodone from Schedule III to the more-restrictive Schedule II.

Under the DEA regulatory sanction, pharmacies cannot honor refills of prescriptions for hydrocodone products submitted on or after October 6, 2014. Prescribers must submit a new, handwritten prescription for each 30-day supply of the narcotic. For valid hydrocodone prescriptions submitted prior to that date, however, pharmacies can legally dispense authorized refills until April 8, 2015.

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This reclassification came on the wake of nearly seven million Americans abusing controlled-substance prescription medications. The federal administration discovered that roughly two-thirds of emergency department admissions for overdoses involve prescription medications, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents. The most commonly abused and leading cause of injury-related mortality in the United Stated is prescription painkillers- hydrocodone being one of them. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, “..These products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.”

Oklahoma, along with several other states, allow authorized refills of prescription for hydrocodone combination products submitted before October 6, 2014 to be refilled until April 8, 2015, following the federal accommodation. However, some states have opt towards a different course of action due to several notions. States like Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania prohibit refills of hydrocodone combination products, no matter if they were submitted prior to October. West Virginia is limiting to 2 refills and Wisconsin is permitting refills until November 1, 2014 instead of April 8, 2015.

Regulatory divergence by some states has one pharmacist association concerned for patients’ pain therapy, which they claim could be compromised if the federal accommodation is not followed. Nonetheless, Kevin Schweers, Vice President of National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) provides insight into the matter and offers resolution. “Pharmacists may not be able to fill these prescriptions due to multiple factors related to state law and insurance-related issues, which may prevent the pharmacy from honoring the refill.” His recommendation, “Therefore, it was recommended that patients contact their doctors to obtain a new prescription.”

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