SOMERSET, Ky. (WYMT) - The Food and Drug Administration is taking another look at how it classifies the opioid pain killer hydrocodone, and an F.D.A panel is calling for tougher restrictions.
The Drug Enforcement Agency requested the panel to reevaluate the potency of hydrocodone. The panel heard testimony from a researcher at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
"The data indicated that hydrocodone was virtually identical to other drugs in the Schedule II class like oxycodone and morphine," said Dr. Sharon Walsh, director of the school's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research.
The panel ultimately voted 19 to 10 to recommend hydrocodone be reclassified Schedule II. Operation UNITE director Karen Kelly says she is surprised at the decision, but welcomes the news.
"The F.D.A. is beginning to listen, and the public has helped that," she said. "You know someone dies in this country every 15 minutes of an overdose due to prescription medication, and that has to stop."
Research indicates hydrocodone is one of the most abused prescription medications in the United States. A Schedule II reclassification would impose tighter controls on the drug, reserving it for more severe chronic pain.
"We don't want people who need medication to not receive it, but we also have to stop crating new addicts," Kelly said.
Kelly is hopeful the F.D.A. will follow the panel's recommendation and make hydrocodone a Schedule II drug.