Hydrocodone, an opioid-type medication, will be reclassified as a Schedule II medication effective October 6, 2014. In the opinion of many regulators, patient advocates, and pain management experts, this change is long overdue.
Hydrocodone and all its combinations collectively represented the most popular pain medication prescribed in Rhode Island. Vicodin is a common brand name that contains hydrocodone. A review of 2013 data reveals there were more than 22.6 million doses filled. Schedule II medications have stricter regulation, reflective of the increased risk these medications have.
A summary of some of the rules surrounding all schedule II medications: • The prescription must be written and signed by the prescriber. • The prescription cannot have refills. • The prescription is not valid after 90 days from the date it was written. • A verbal prescription is allowed only in emergency situations and a written prescription must follow within seven days. (The pharmacist will notify the Drug Enforcement Agency if a written prescription is not received.) • Faxed, original prescriptions are only allowed for: o Home infusion/IV pain therapy o Long-term-care facilities o Hospice/terminally-ill patient • Prescriptions have the following quantity limitations: o 30-day supply o Practitioners may write up to three separate prescriptions (each for up to a one-month supply) and each prescription must be signed and dated on the date they were originally written. In addition, the practitioner must write the earliest date each of those subsequent prescriptions may be filled, with directions to the pharmacist to fill no earlier than the date specified on the face of the prescription.
These are not all the rules surrounding hydrocodone and its varying combinations; however, prescribers will be responsible for following all of the rules when prescribing hydrocodone.
HEALTH urges all prescribers to plan for these changes that will take effect next week. It is likely this will have a significant impact on office practices as schedule II prescriptions cannot be phoned in to a pharmacy. HEALTH encourages e-Prescribing of Schedule II medications for safety and security.
The prescription drug abuse epidemic persists. All prescribers should consult HEALTH's website for expectations regarding responsible prescribing as well as enroll in and utilize the information found in the Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing a controlled substance.