In a move inspired by many state governments, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for the federal government to take an active role in reducing prescription drug abuse. They were, at the same time, cautious not to limit access of prescription painkillers for people who truly need them.
"It is abundantly clear that the prescription drug abuse epidemic is a crisis in the U.S.," said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce's Health subcommittee in an interview with The Hill. "However, while we discuss this complicated and dynamic issue we need to keep in mind that many of these medications that so many are abusing are critical for many patients living with chronic pain."
The first step in reducing abuse, according to the legislators, is shutting down illegal pain clinics, also known as "pill mills." In addition, the House members pressed the Obama administration to reclassify hydrocodone drugs like Vicodin from Schedule III, defined as substances with a moderate potential for dependence, to Schedule II, considered to have a higher potential for abuse and dependence. If it were to become a Schedule II drug, hydrocodone would be regulated the same as methadone or oxycodone.
A bill to reclassify hydrocodone was introduced in the House and Senate in March of this year, but has languished in both houses. The executive branch has offered no comment on the Congressional suggestions.