Hydrocodone Schedule Change: What You Need to Know

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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The classification for medications that contain hydrocodone (like Vicodin) is changing from schedule III to schedule II in an effort to help combat prescription drug abuse.

When does this change take effect?

The change will take effect approximately 45 days from the date of publication of the DEA ruling. You can find more information and the final ruling from the Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) here.

What is a schedule II substance?

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), schedule II substances are drugs that have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Check out more information on the various drug schedules here.

What are some examples of other schedule II narcotics?

Some examples of current Schedule II narcotic pain relievers include Percocet, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, and morphine.

What are some examples of medications containing hydrocodone that this change will affect?

These medications contain hydrocodone and will be affected by this new ruling:

Will this change effect how doctors write prescriptions for these medications?

Yes. The new schedule may affect current as well as future prescriptions.

The first change will be refills. Because these hydrocodone-containing medications will now be schedule II, they will no longer be able to be refilled. Currently these medications are allowed to have 5 refills (or 6 fills total).

The second change that may affect you is pharmacy support. When you run out of refills on one of your maintenance prescriptions, as a courtesy, your pharmacist will call your doctor to try and obtain a new prescription for you. Unfortunately, because these hydrocodone-containing medications are going from a schedule III to a schedule II classification, your pharmacist is no longer permitted to call your doctor for refills of this medication.

The third change will be prescription access. Your doctor will no longer be allowed to call or fax prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing medications to your pharmacy. Now, you, the patient, must take a brand new prescription into the pharmacy yourself each time you fill.

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