CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A move by the federal government will restrict the prescription of painkiller hydrocodone drugs, like Vicodin and Lortab, the number one prescribed controlled substance in West Virginia.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration will make the announcement Friday that it’s moving hydrocodone from Schedule III to the more restrictive Schedule II.

West Virginia Board of Pharmacy Executive Director and General Counsel David Potters said the new classification will impact how the drugs are stored, stocked, transported, prescribed and dispensed.

“The whole idea to is cut down on the amount of supply available in the medicine cabinets at any one time,” he said.

Hydrocodone is at the top of the list of prescribed drugs in West Virginia. Potters said it also is the most diverted and abused.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin applauded the reclassification.

“Today was a tremendous step forward in fighting the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is rampant across West Virginia and our country,” Manchin said in a news release. “As Governor and now as U.S. Senator, I have diligently fought to stem the tide on the prescription drug abuse, and rescheduling these highly addictive drugs will help prevent them from getting into the wrong hands and devastating families and communities.”

Schedule II drugs are not allowed to be refilled, a prescription is required each time. Also, in many cases, only doctors can prescribe them.

“It is removing it from the prescriptive authority from many of the mid-level practitioners if not all of them,” Potters said.

Under Schedule II the written prescription expires in 90 days and at pharmacies many of them are kept in locked safes or cages. Potters added making a drug a Schedule II also gives physicians a cause to pause and consider prescribing it.

“It tends to push them to think, ‘Do I really want to prescribe this? Or do I want to prescribe something that has been found by the DEA to be less addictive and less subject to abuse?”

The new rule is expected to be announced Friday and take effect in 45 days.

Potters said West Virginia’s hydrocodone problems come from the excess that’s found in homes across the state.

“More than 70 percent of all of the controlled substances that are diverted are taken from, given away from or sold from our families’ medicine cabinets,” he said. “They’re not stolen from pharmacies or stolen from warehouses.”

Sen. Manchin said he has seen the pain the abuse of hydrocodone-combination drugs can cause in West Virginia communities. He said the finalization of the rescheduling is a major step in the right direction.

“Although there is much more that must be done to curb prescription drug abuse, I am confident that rescheduling hydrocodone will undoubtedly begin saving hundreds of thousands of lives immediately,” Manchin said.

The West Virginia Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that limits hydrocodone drugs to no more than a 30-day supply and no more than two refills. Potters said that law would stay into effect along with the new classification.

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  • Nathan Doe

    I don't think the State has thought of not only the financial burden placed on those without insurance. I have been paying $76.00 a month to see my Dr. Who was able to give me perscription and 2 refills. Now I have to pay $76.00 a month un top the cost of paying cash for my medicine. Then they claim it will help keep drugs from streets. In reallity, Supply and Demand will drive up the street cost of Pain Pills. Causing a rise in crime for addicts to pay for thier fix. Also lets look at all the patients on state medical cards. Now instead of the state paying for patients to see thier Dr. Once every 3 months, they will have to go once a month. So who is benefiting from this law. #1 Profitter is Private Insurance companies. It will burden the small budget of state medical cards.

  • Hunter

    I find putting a drug like hydrocodone in the same class as oxycodone, morphine, opana and dilaudid very amusing. I really feel for the people who have pain , and chronic pain issues who will be affected by this pointless meaningless law.

  • DebT

    I have to say one more thing: imagine everyone unable to get their drugs? Now we know why the cops are arming themselves with military equipment! ha!

  • DebT

    Well, it's another ploy by the Feds and Big Pharma. Come ON. This is a CHEAP pain medication, and BIG PHARMA doesn't want you to buy cheap medications! Who can't see this truth is beyond me! OMG you might get addicted? REALLY you HAVE to take XYZ pills every frickin day for XYZ that are not classified, or, you'll die of heart disease or thyroid complications, or whatever, the end of the road is DEATH anyways. So you're not addicted to what you take everyday to stay alive??? Big pharma wins again. People will go to the streets. Just what the FEDS want since they've not much to do with the marijuana changes. What a joke.

  • mich ferry

    I have several health problems have been taking hydrocodone for eleven yrs. Always exactly like my dr prescribes . A prescription for 120 month with 2 refills taking one four times a day. Does this new law mean I can no longer get any refills. Will I have to go to my dr every month.

    • DebT

      Yes, and pay that copay or doctors appt visit too! Who can afford all this? Heron is $5.00 on the street. Good grief. Win win for Feds.

  • kiki

    My pain meds haven't had refills on them for over 2 yrs anyway. I have had to go to my Dr every month for my Rx. And many people drive 100 miles or more to see this Dr. We as patients are just greatful to have a Dr. It took me 3 yrs to get into pain management. I do understand many of the points made here. But I'm just greatful for my Dr. 12 visits a yr, or not,

  • Moore

    It is quite apparent to me that the state of wv cares more about junkies than they do those who are in ill health and have no choice but to use hydrocodon for chronic pain. As a cardio patient, I am unable to use the non-narcotic because they cause heart attacks. Now instead of seeing my Doctors once every six months each for my GP and Cardiologist, I will now be required to see the Doctor 12 times per year, requiring a 60 mile round trip, a total of an additional 600 miles per year, plus 10 additional co-pays for the visits in the amount of $15.00 each, in addition to 10 additional charges for lab work requiring a co-pay of around $60.00 each, or in case you are slow, $720.00 per year plus the additional travel costs.

    I and many others in this situation simply cannot afford to do this. So, we do without the medication which allows us to move about more with less pain, living as close to a normal life as possible. Therefore we will get less exercise, which is deleterious to our health, as well as to our activity in life. No doubt shortening our life span. Or was that the plan all along? Look after the addicted jackasses at the expense of elderly people who actually need these meds. It is my opinion as well as many others I have spoken to that junkies are more important to you than your elderly and infirmed citizens. Your solution to taking care of the junkies, who will find a way to get drugs anyway, is more important to you than those of us who actually need them in order to live as normal a life as is possible, for as long as possible.

    As far as many of us are concerned, this is an attack on the elderly and infirmed, disguised as a way to help junkies. The expedient and easy way for you. You should all be removed from office. Damn, I guess the right wing was right. There are Death Panels and you and your cohorts are part of them.

    • DebT

      I'm 100% behind you.

  • Really??

    Has anyone stopped to think that those abusing these drugs with medicaid will be at their numerous doctors monthly getting their drugs without paying for an office visit. Our state will pay. Yet those who work, disabled, or receive medicare will continue to try and stretch their pain medication to prevent having to pay those physician copays each visit. Sad.

    • Joe

      Medicaid also reimburses for mileage. You simply cannot make this stuff up.

  • Dr.Matt

    If you really have the conditions you are all claiming then you should all be going to actual licensed Dr,s and should have no problem getting your meds. So what if they have to call it in or actually go see your doctor. This is to combat the people who are out shooting up drug stores. So sorry if u have to actually receive medical care to get your pain pills. Quit crying there is people who can't even go to a Dr. I work a clinic every year in Belize every year. Now They have problems.

    • Bob

      You should be working a clinic in the US, for a Dr. your comment is insensitive and uncaring, and is why people are losing their rights everyday. How can you even compare people with cronic pain to people in Belize, if you are a Dr. you missed alot of class!

      • Moore

        Well said.

  • Kelly

    I wonder how Mylan fares as a result of this legislation. Does this make any of their class 3 pain meds more attractive to doctors to prescribe.

  • vetern

    That is just great...unreal.

  • vetern

    Just great. I need it for pain. I was w.i.a in nam.

    • DebT

      You and me head for the Medical Marijuana clinics. I'm done with big pharma.

  • drew

    This is absurd it's not going to curb abuse one bit, but it will do the following..

    Inflate prices.
    Increase violence.
    Increase pharmacy break-ins.
    Shift light addiction to hard street drugs.

    The war on drugs has failed miserably and considering alcohol is more dangerous than most street drugs people like me view them as hypocrites with zero respect for their laws. I see it as control and not "we care"... Stop telling me how to live my life.

    That said, I don't even take Vicodin, it's weak and short acting. I use to play the game and play hard and the last thing on my mind was whether it was legal or not. I've broke one and only one law in my life, there were no victims, nobody lost money, no property stolen, and nobody to care about what I was doing because nobody knew. It went on like that for 12 years.

    After the man took interest I switched to Methadone which I felt stupid for not doing way, way sooner. A $6,000 a month habit reduced to $300.

    I'll take narcotics the rest of my life whether it's legal or not. Some people enjoy drinking, bar fights and driving drunk.. I enjoy opiates, video games, and being left the fuck alone. If they closed Methadone clinics tomorrow I'd be back on heroin tomorrow afternoon.

    You cannot make someone quit who does not want to quit.

  • ThatGuyOverThere

    Thats just great...I have them prescribed to me for my numerous kidney stone problems...and even though they don't 100% get rid of the pain, they make it at least bearable until I can get scheduled for lithotripsy and rid myself of the problem stone...At least they can still be prescribed by a doctor as needed...

  • RDC

    Right, let the people who really need pain medication suffer, what an ass Manchin is. I don't care if someone steals, or buys it on the street. They can go ahead and abuse it, that will be Darwin at work.