Opioid controls tighten

Combination hydrocodone pills now Schedule II drugs

Regulation of some of the most widely abused narcotic painkillers tightened on Aug. 21, as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency moved opioids from Schedule III to Schedule II.

The DEA categorizes drugs into one of five schedules based on accepted medical use, relative abuse potential and likelihood of dependence. Pure hydrocodone is already a Schedule II drug; pills like Vicodin, however, are a combination of hydrocodone and less-potent painkillers like acetaminophen. Starting in October, patients will need a written prescription—not one submitted by phone—from a doctor to get such combination pills, according to CNN.

Further limiting easy access, patients will have to see a doctor to refill their prescription. The reclassification also puts manufacturing quotas in place for hydrocodone products.

In the U.S. alone, someone dies from prescription drug overdose every 19 minutes.