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Buchanan Praises DEA Decision on Painkillers


BRADENTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) praised the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) decision last week to move forward with tighter controls on addictive prescription painkillers. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart announced Thursday that the agency would proceed with the rescheduling of hydrocodone combination drugs from a schedule III to a schedule II drug, making them more difficult to prescribe and obtain.


“Too many of our loved ones are dying every day from prescription drug overdoses and are abusing hydrocodone painkillers for non-medical purposes,” said Buchanan, the House sponsor of the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013 (H.R. 1285) last week. “Today’s announcement means we are one step closer to curbing the abuse of the deadly narcotics wreaking havoc on countless families and communities across our nation.”

The DEA’s proposal follows the same recommendation made by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in December. This change mirrors bipartisan legislation Buchanan introduced on March 20, 2013, the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013.

The DEA’s proposed rule initiates the final steps of the rescheduling process, beginning with a 60-day public comment period for interested parties. At the end of 60 days, the DEA will review the comments and then set an effective date for the rescheduling of hydrocodone combination drugs to be published in the Federal Register.

Currently a Schedule III substance, hydrocodone combination drugs (e.g., Vicodin and Lortab) are widely available and accessible with a doctor’s prescription. Hydrocodone abuse has been growing at an alarming rate nationwide. The most widely prescribed painkillers in the U.S., over 131 million prescriptions of Vicodin were filled in 2010 alone – enough to give 24 Vicodin pills to every man, woman, and child in the U.S. Fatal drug overdoses now outweigh the number of traffic fatalities in this country.

Buchanan sent a letter to Leonhart last week urging swift action on the matter. The fourth-term Congressman has fought for two years to get the drugs reclassified in order to address the growing crisis of prescription drug abuse in Florida, as well as across the nation.

"While rescheduling hydrocodone combination drugs alone is not enough to end our nation's prescription drug problem," Buchanan wrote, "regulating these potent narcotics in an appropriate manner will go a long way toward combating a national epidemic. It has reached such violent proportions that fatal drug overdoses now outweigh the total number of traffic fatalities in this country. If left unchecked, prescription drug abuse will continue to wreak havoc on countless families and communities throughout our nation."


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