In October the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed tightening restrictions on access to certain low-potency narcotic pain medicines in an effort to stem the rising tide of prescription-drug abuse in the United States. The new rules would require patients to visit their doctors more often to refill their prescriptions and prohibit pharmacists from filling prescriptions over the phone.
The recommended changes may seem innocuous to many Americans, who are accustomed to getting just one side of the story on prescription-drug use. In fact, they are part of a disturbing trend that threatens to disrupt access to life-sustaining medication for millions of law-abiding citizens while having minimal impact on levels of drug abuse and addiction.
The move by the FDA to reclassify low-level hydrocodone preparations like Vicodin as Schedule II narcotics — the same category currently assigned to stronger pain medications, including fentanyl and morphine — follows several years of unilateral action by the states to erect new roadblocks to pain management. Advanced under the guise of protecting the health of Americans, these restrictions represent a heedless expansion of the war on drugs at the expense of the privacy and well-being of innocent patients.
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