Could tighter restrictions on painkillers be coming? - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Panel asking FDA to label drugs with high abuse potential

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Check your medicine cabinet, there might be tighter restrictions on painkillers. 

An advisory panel along with some local doctors are asking the FDA to label drugs with Hydrocodone as a drug with high abuse potential. 

Local doctors and an addiction specialist are speaking out about the dangers of painkillers, which we all know, but the statistics of how many people of all kinds of ages locally abuse in Indiana might surprise you.

"We've had people as old at 80, as young as 18. We've had people that worked at McDonald's, people that worked at Whirlpool, people who have MBA's, and doctors," Katy Adams said. Adams is the Director of Addictive Services at Southwestern Behavioral. 

Addiction to painkillers, Adams says, reaches everyone in our community. Adams says they house up to 46 residents a day from all over the state and service about 450 people in four counties on any given day.

"These are the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States today," said Dr. Bryan Laura with St. Mary's Internal Medicine. 

Highly addictive drugs like Hydrocodone, Vicadin, and Loratab. 

"To give you a sense of how much medication is out there, if we took all the medication that was prescribed last year of Hydrocodone, it was enough medication to take every single American citizen, like 316 million, and give them around the clock, 24 hour a day medication for one month," Dr. Laura said.

Those drugs, Dr. Laura says account for an increase in overdose deaths. He agrees tighter measures need to be in place. Those might include a maximum 30-day refill until the patient sees the doctor again and additional labeling.

"I know some people who started on these medications, had no idea that this had addictive potential, they were just taking what their doctor told them to take," Adams said.

Dr. Laura says there does need to be exceptions for people that need Hydrocodone on a regular basis for pain, and can't get to a doctor because they are in a nursing home or rural area.

"Eventually somebody is going to be without their medication, and it's going to lead to withdrawal, and that can be life threatening in of itself," Dr. Laura told 14 News.

But he agrees the extra work by the patient and doctor needs to happen to put an end to this epidemic.

Drugs like oxycodone and morphine are already classified under this label. The FDA has not said whether it will act on the recommendation.

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