Proposed pain pill rules could affect users, and those who fight their abuse

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SARASOTA - Proposed new rules that could affect people who use prescription pain pills, and those who fight their abuse. The FDA recommends moving the three types of hydrocodone – Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab – into the same class of drugs as the harder narcotics, such as morphine and oxycontin.

That restricts how they're prescribed to try to keep them from feeding addictions.

Police agencies work to fight crimes related to prescription drugs because they say they lead to burglaries, robberies, and worse.  The FDA's proposal to reclassify hydrocodone brings another gun to the battle.

“My reaction first is excitement, and secondly, long overdue,” says Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight.

A prescription drug monitoring database and more rules regulating pain clinics have put a dent in the prescription pill problem, yet it still plagues our state, and the country. CDC data shows that opioid pain killers cause three-quarters of prescription drug overdose deaths.

“I think it's window dressing. Until we start dealing with the addiction problem, this isn't going to stop the abuse that's going on,” says Paul Sloan, Practice Administrator at the First Choice Pain Care Clinic in Venice.

He says people still abuse prescription narcotics that already have the greater restrictions. And that making prescriptions of other painkillers harder to get mainly hurts patients in pain who can't get the medicine they need.

“This war on pain meds is a war on pain patients, and they have turned people who suffer from chronic pain into criminals,” he says.

“That's a fallacy,” Knight responds. “It's never hard to get your prescriptions filled by a doctor who's credible, who'll make sure you get it for the right reasons, and makes sure it's not getting into the hands of criminals.”

The proposed changes changes include things like requiring a written prescription for the drugs, your doctor can't just call it in, and limits the number of refills before you have to go back to your doctor to get another prescription. The DEA has wanted this change for nearly two decades. The Obama administration has to approve it. If it does, it would likely go into effect next year.