Prescription painkillers have become a huge problem in the US: addiction has spun out of control and many communities are struggling to clean up the damage.
Now the FDA is joining the fight. An advisory panel recently made recommendations to help curb painkiller addiction, and particularly addiction to the drug hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone - a painkilling drug present in common medications like Vicodin - is the most prescribed drug in the United States. It can also be highly addictive, ruining jobs, marriages, and entire lives. Now the FDA is considering tightening limitations on when and how often the drug can be prescribed.
Under the new rules, no patient could get refills without a new prescription. Prescriptions couldn't be faxed in or phoned over to the pharmacy. Any distributors of the drug would have to keep it stored in special vaults to prevent unlawful access.
But many people are skeptical, including a good portion of the advisory panel. They say the same limitations were placed on oxycodone - another addictive painkiller - since that drug's inception, without much success. Restricting prescriptions, they fear, might only hurt people with legitimate pain who need the treatment. Elderly patients, people with chronic illness, and patients in severe pain might not be able to make multiple trips to the doctor for new prescriptions every time.
While the FDA convened the panel, they have not yet accepted the panel's recommendations. If they do choose to move forward, they will send it to the Department of Health and Human Services for final approval.