Changes go in effect for filling prescriptions for painkillers

New rule says patients need paper prescription for each refill
Changes go in effect for filling prescriptions for painkillers

Under new Drug Enforcement Agency rules, every time a patient refills a painkiller prescription containing hydrocodone, like Vicodin, they will have to go back to their doctor to get a written prescription.

“Always must have a hard copy, written prescription presented to the pharmacy. Cannot be transmitted over the phone,” Mallatt’s pharmacist Roberta Carrier said. “That means it’s much more difficult to get refills, because every time a new prescription needs to be generated from their prescriber.”

In the past a prescriber could write one hydrocodone prescription that was good for up to five refills within a six-month period. But citing millions dying from prescription drug overdoses, the DEA ordered painkillers containing hydrocodone to be placed in the same regulatory class as painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet and codeine.

“Almost 7 million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in an August news release. “Today’s action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.”

The change also means pharmacies must now lock up painkillers containing hydrocodone.

Madison’s Connections Counseling Assistant Director Krystle Gutting welcomes the changes, because many of their clients use opiate painkillers as a gateway to eventually using heroin.

“The more we can educate the community about them starting on opiate prescription medications the more we can educate people about that, implementing ways to prevent this getting started, we’re better off,” Gutting said.

At Connections Counseling they have two walls. One memorializes young people who have died from heroin overdoses. The other honors those in recovery.

As Gutting prepares to add one of her former clients who died from a heroin overdose to the memorial wall, she has faith the rule change will mean less young people have the ability to start abusing prescription drugs.

“I hope this prevents people from getting started and changes the rise of the opiate epidemic,” Gutting said.

Carrier said all patients need to be acutely aware of the change, and work closely with their providers, because the new rules greatly alter the dynamic of filling prescriptions.