CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The retired pharmacist who leads the West Virginia House of Delegates' Health and Human Resources Committee praised the Federal Drug Administration for advocating tougher regulations to control addictive pharmaceutical painkillers like hydrocodone.Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said Friday he's happy that, under the proposed rule changes, prescriptions for pharmaceuticals containing hydrocodone must be written anew each time, rather than automatically refilled.Additionally, renewed prescriptions no longer could be called in, except in medical emergencies."It will be an inconvenience for those people who are . . . legitimately taking it now," Perdue said, "but the fact that the drug has been so much over-utilized, and there's been so much of an increase in its street use, it's clear that something had to be done."
Reclassifying hydrocodone, from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug, will make doctors more aware of potential problems when they prescribe it, Perdue said."They'll become far more discerning in how long they write prescriptions for that drug and how much they give," he said. "Those people who take hydrocodone will be held to the same standard as people who take other narcotics, like OxyContin."The FDA's proposed regulations must go to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, then to the Drug Enforcement Administration, for approval.Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has advocated for tougher regulations for drugs like hydrocodone, noting that West Virginia has one of the highest death rates from drug overdoses in the country.Last year, Manchin co-sponsored legislation to reclassify hydrocodone -- legislation that passed the Senate, but not the House. This year, his legislation stalled again.In a telephone news conference Friday, Manchin said the new regulations would help control "doctors that are overprescribing" drugs and "go after the people who are abusing them. But it will not put prescription drug manufacturers out of business."Abuse of drugs containing opioids, like hydrocodone, has increased by 287 percent over the past 11 years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.