Hydrocodone rescheduling limits access while raising costs

Hydrocodone's reclassification from a Schedule III to Schedule II drug has resulted in reduced access, high costs due to increased doctor's visits and stigmatization, according to a recent study conducted by the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA).

Results of the study were shared by the Millennium Research Institute during the 31st annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine in Maryland on Thursday.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency rescheduled hydrocodone in October 2014 to cut down on overdoses and criminal activity related to the pain medication. The change limited patients to a smaller maximum supply between doctor visits, and required them to see a doctor or other medical provider for each handwritten prescription renewal.

The NFMCPA collected 3,000 responses in the first 72 hours that the survey was online. 

Among the findings were that: approximately two-thirds of responders reported they were unable to access hydrocodone-combination prescriptions; more than 15 percent of responders reported negative impacts in doctor-patient relationships; and responders cited higher expenses from more frequent doctor’s visits, higher medication co-pays, higher transportation expenses and lost income related to inability to work because of pain.

"We believe it is important to take an educated and balanced approach to stopping the complex public health epidemic of prescription medication abuse,” Steven Passik, principal investigator at the institute who presented the findings, said. “It's important to detect and prevent aberrant behavior, while also providing access to treatment for those patients who are legitimately in need of these medications."