While US Pain understands and supports the need of the government and law enforcement agencies to reduce prescription drug abuse, doing so on the backs of those who responsibly use these medications is unfair.
The FDA recommendation of rescheduling of hydrocodone combination products to Schedule II will place a huge burden on those who struggle to live with pain everyday.
Patients who rely on these medications will now be forced to see their doctors at minimum every 90 days and in many cases every 30 days even if they have been on a stable, effective dose of their medication for years. They will now need to obtain a physical, written prescription, as refills, faxes, electronic submissions and calling in these medicines to pharmacies will no longer be allowed. This will be extremely burdensome for patients who are disabled by their pain and may lack the money, energy, and means to travel, even locally, to their doctors and pharmacies. The added costs for additional office visits may mean that patients could no longer afford these necessary medicines. The shame and stigma so common among people with pain who have lost their ability to work in exchange for a torturous yet invisible disability would only be made worse by having to repeatedly return to the doctor's office just to get a script.
This decision is certain to clog an already overburdened healthcare system because of the increased visits it will require to primary care providers as well as pain specialists who are already limiting access to new patients due to workload.
People with moderate to moderately-severe pain would simply be left to suffer with debilitating pain without their medication until they could get an appointment. Research has now shown that untreated or undertreated pain can become chronic and cause changes in the central nervous system, spinal cord and brain that amplify nerve signals which self-stimulate and worsen over time. We know that pain of this intensity has a deleterious effect on patients' ability to work, sleep, socialize and engage in normal activities of daily living.
Hydrocodone combination products are the most commonly prescribed medications in the country and for good reasons --they are effective for both acute and chronic pain and are useful and appropriate for a wide range of painful conditions and diseases. The number of Americans now living with pain is staggering. Pain is the number one reason why Americans visit their doctors. The Institute of Medicine has documented that there are more than 100 million Americans living with chronic pain in this country. Approximately 47 million Americans used hydrocodone-
Attempting to curb prescription drug abuse by restricting access to the most commonly used and highly effective pain medication will unjustly punish millions of law-abiding citizens with pain. Data has shown that 70% of medications that are abused were not prescribed to the individuals abusing them.
Rather than a simplistic, misguided solution to a complex problem, we need equitable solutions to medication abuse that do not harm people forced to live their lives with debilitating pain.