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Higgins reports progress on efforts to change the way addictive painkillers are prescribed

by jmaloni

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Mon, Mar 3rd 2014 10:55 am

Three federal agencies recommend reclassification of hydrocodone

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, is reporting progress on efforts to reclassify extremely addictive painkillers and address the increasing prescription drug abuse epidemic.

"The reclassification of highly addictive painkillers recognizes the seriousness of the prescription drug addiction and abuse problem, and is one step in an effort to prevent unnecessary tragedies," Higgins said. "I applaud the work of Avi Israel and the Save the Michaels of the World organization who have taken their personal stories to Washington in a crusade to help prevent other families from experiencing their pain."

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent the Department of Health and Human Services the recommendation to reschedule hydrocodone combination products from schedule three category to schedule two. On Dec. 17, HHS sent DEA the recommendation to reschedule hydrocodone combination products. In a final step, last week the DEA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to move hydrocodone to schedule two. Public comments will be accepted on this proposal until April 28, and can be submitted online through the following link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DEA-2014-0005-0004.

Under theControlled Substances Act, substances falling under the schedule two category have a high potential for abuse, which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence whereas substances categorized under schedule three drugs are defined as having a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

Prescription drug abuse is at record levels. According to a 2012 report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency department visits related to hydrocodone totaled 115,739 in 2010, nearly doubling since 2004.

Higgins has supported efforts at the state and federal level to address the harmful impacts of prescription painkillers:

•In January of 2012, reps. Higgins and Grimm sent a letter supporting New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP) legislation.

•In May of 2012 and on other occasions, he supported efforts by Save the Michaels of the Word, a group of families whose children and lives have been impacted by prescription drugs.

•In July of 2012, Higgins spoke about the issue on the Floor of the House of Representatives.

•In January of 2013, Higgins wrote to the FDA asking the agency to hear the concerns of local families involved in the Save the Michaels of the World group as it weighed its decision on the classification of hydrocodone. Group leader and Western New York resident Avi Israel was among those provided testimony. At the hearing, the FDA advisory committee voted to recommend hydrocodone move to schedule II.

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