The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending new restrictions on prescription medicine that contains hydrocodone, which is a highly-addictive painkiller and the most widely prescribed drug in America.
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The agency said that hydrocodone-containing drugs should be subject to the same restrictions as other narcotic drugs like oxycodone and morphine. Hydrocodone belongs to a family of drugs known as opioids, which also includes heroin, codeine and methadone.
The agency’s top drug regulator, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said in a statement, “The FDA has become increasingly concerned about the abuse and misuse of opioid products, which have sadly reached epidemic proportions in certain parts of the United States.”
The FDA did not issue a formal announcement about its decision, which has long been sought by many patient advocates, doctors and state and federal lawmakers.
Hydrocodone is easier to prescribe than many other drugs since it is only sold in combination pills and formulas with other non-addictive ingredients like aspirin and acetaminophen. This ease of access has made it many health care professionals’ top choice for treating chronic pain, everything from back pain to arthritis to toothaches.