First.. the case for the change. Prescription drugs account for three quarters of all drug overdoses in this country. Drugs containing hydrocodone account for seventy percent of all of them. The FDA is recommending the DEA change them from schedule three to schedule two. That means no calling in prescriptions and no refills allowed. Dr. James Flowers is a pain specialist with Memorial Herman's Prevention and recovery center. He says this is a good thing.
"If they need to be on that or their doctor wants to write that I don't see a problem with a patient going to a doctor, a physician examining that patient, giving a full physical, a full exam and giving the patient a prescription to take to a pharmacy and get it filled."
The proposed changes would cover opiates like vicodin but not drugs containing codeine like tylenol 3... That's one reason why Dr. William Fisher with UT Health is against the changes. "Nobody is restricting tylenol 3's. So what will happen is people will shift their prescriptions from vicodin to tylenol 3 which has an equal potential for abuse and is still an opiate. The problems that can cause respiratory depression when combined with alcohol are still present."
Dr. Fisher says the shift would greatly inconvenience legitimate chronic pain patients who may not be able to get to a doctor easily.. That willl lead to more ER visits.. He says abusers will still abuse... He says there are ten thousand websites where you can get prescription drugs without a prescription
"I could have a thousand vicodin delivered by fedex by Monday without a prescription."
.So you will be hurting patents without stopping addicts.
"I think this is a well- intentioned thing but you are going to have unintended consequences. I don't think it's going to solve the problem."
Flowers agrees it won't solve the problem entirely.. It won't stop online sales and it won't stop pill mills and it will inconvenience some patents. But it will stop some abuse so it's a step in the right direction.
"I think the greater good far outweighs the negative outcome."
"The FDA has recommended the changes. The Department of Health and Human Services will have to approve them and the DEA will have to adopt them. If all that happens the proposed changes would go into effect in the beginning of 2014/