Lawmakers introduce bill to tighten rules on hydrocodone

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SARASOTA - New legislation was introduced Wednesday to help fight the prescription pill abuse problem in the country.

Suncoast Congressman Vern Buchanan is one of several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hoping to approve the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013. The bill would reclassify hydrocodone painkillers, such as Vicodin and Lortab, from Schedule III to Schedule II controlled substances to accurately reflect their high potential for addiction and abuse.

"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 restrictions on prescribing and using Schedule III drugs are much less stringent than those for Schedule II products. Under Schedule II, a written prescription would be required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of emergency. Pharmacists would require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers would be subject to harsher fines and penalties.

"This is not the silver bullet for this epidemic. There are other things that need to take place, but it's a really important first step," said Ruth Lyerly. Lyerly, a Manatee County resident, lost her son to prescription drug abuse.

"Thousands upon thousands of pills are on the streets everyday and being sold. There needs to be some control over these highly addictive drugs," said Lyerly.

Cindy Harney of Sarasota echos Lyerly's words. Her son also passed away due to prescription drug abuse.

"This gives us the hope that another family does not have to go through what ours have gone through," said Harney.