November 3, 2013
Two developments occurred last week that should help in efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.
One will place tighter controls on an opioid painkiller that is often diverted for nonmedical uses. The other should give a clearer understanding about whether the amount of prescription drugs shipped to West Virginia is in line with what would be expected for the state’s population or way beyond a reasonable level, as many people suspect.
One positive step came from the Food and Drug Administration, which said it will formally ask that hydrocodone be rescheduled as a Schedule II drug from its current Schedule III status. The result of that change would be to limit which kinds of medical professionals can write a prescription and how many times it can be refilled.
The action, if approved by other federal agencies, would put the same prescribing controls on hydrocodone that already in place for OxyContin. The abuse of both drugs has risen steadily in the last decade, contributing to addiction, related crime and high fatal overdose rates.
Both U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and state Delegate Don Perdue, retired pharmacist who leads the West Virginia House of Delegates’ Health and Human Resources Committee, had lobbied for the change and lauded last week’s FDA recommendation. …
The other development last week was a ruling by Boone County Circuit Judge William Thompson that four pharmaceutical drug distributors must turn over records of shipments made to West Virginia pharmacies during the last five years.
Thompson’s decision came in a lawsuit filed last year by former Attorney General Darrell McGraw that accused the companies of shipping excessive amounts of prescription painkiller to pharmacies in southern West Virginia. …
Learning about those shipments will give a better picture of whether the volumes of drugs were reasonable for serving West Virginians or of such magnitude that the companies contributed significantly to the state’s drug abuse problem. Either way, the pharmaceutical companies face more accountability, which is a step forward.
— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington