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How the Reclassification of Hydrocodone Affects Your Pharmacy

  • March 6, 2013
  • RPh on the Go

How the Reclassification of Hydrocodone Affects Your Pharmacy

Recently, the FDA voted 19-10 in favor of reclassifying medications containing hydrocodone to be reclassified from a Schedule III product up to a Schedule II. This decision was made in light of the many overdoses Americans die from every year involving prescription painkillers. 75% of these deaths involve opiate based medications, according to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. Products containing oxycodone are already Schedule II substances, and this ruling will add painkillers containing hydrocodone to that list.

What changes can your pharmacy expect with this reclassification?

Schedule II medications are required to have written prescriptions by a physician or medical care provider, meaning that electronic signatures, photocopies, or transmissions may be subject to scrutiny. Hydrocodone’s reclassification will mean that there are no longer refills allowed for medications containing it, and patient scripts are limited to a duration of 90 days. This may cause discord among customers that use prescriptions containing hydrocodone for long term or temporary pain management. No longer will patients be able to call in a refill on their medication; they will need to go to their PCP or medical provider and obtain a new written prescription to deliver to the pharmacy in question. Ensuring that pharmacy staff members have been briefed on the reclassification of hydrocodone, and are receptive and attentive to patient concerns and complaints is vital. Making employees aware of these changes and allowing them to respond in a caring manner is key to retaining customers.

The ruling to reclassify hydrocodone will have a sobering trickledown effect starting with physicians and their patients, all the way to pharmacies and technicians. Many individuals in living situations such as nursing homes will find obtaining medications difficult, as will their care providers. Often, patients being prescribed hydrocodone will be written a script for a tightly controlled amount of medication. However, when pain subsides–unused medication is rarely disposed of, resulting in rising levels of abuse by youth and adults alike. Having an unused medication drop off site at your pharmacy is ideal for getting those last, lingering pills a customer may have in a back cabinet off the streets and disposed of properly.

The decision to prescribe hydrocodone and how it is dispensed will be a hot button topic for the near future and beyond. Making sure that your pharmacy staff has been alerted of the change to hydrocodone’s classification, and addressing how to properly care for customers that may be experiencing difficulties is important. Be sure that customer concerns are addressed in a timely manner, and brainstorm new ways to keep unused medication properly disposed of at your location. Be sure that staff members take the time to check patient records and track refills or prescriptions that may need to be refilled by visiting their primary care physician. Taking the time to ensure customer well being is the first step to navigating the reclassification of hydrocodone successfully.

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