by: Peter Daut Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Food and Drug Administration is recommending tighter controls on how doctors prescribe the most commonly used narcotic painkillers -- major changes that are expected to roll out as early as next year.
Charlotte pharmacist Jesse Pike said in the past decade, he's seen a spike in the number of people addicted to drugs containing hydrocodone, the highly addictive painkiller that's become the most widely prescribed drug in the nation.
"Every 19 minutes in this country, someone dies of a prescription drug overdose," Pike said.
In a major policy change, the FDA is now recommending drugs containing hydrocodone be controlled as tightly as more powerful painkillers, like Oxycontin. The change would reduce the number of refills patients could get before going back to their doctor, patients would also be required to take a prescription to a pharmacy, rather than have a doctor call it in.
Dr. Charles Bregeir with Novant Health Region Care said hydrocone, which is an opiod medication, is one of the most abused medicines in the U.S. each year.
"It's time to make some changes to try to limit it," he said.
Prescription drugs account for about three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the nation annually. Drugs containing hydrocodone represent a huge share at about 70 percent.
The FDA's request must first be approved by officials in other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. The new changes are expected to go into effect in early 2014.