Study Shows Negative Effects of Hydrocodone Rescheduling

Data presented at AAPM 2015 show that moving hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II has led to reduced access to combination hydrocodone medications and other hardships for patients.

According to the results of survey of more than 3,000 chronic pain patients conducted by National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, rescheduling hydrocodone products from Schedule III to Schedule II starting in October 2014 has had serious unintended consequences that are “negatively impacting thousands of chronic pain patients, causing unnecessary suffering, inadequate pain treatment, and denial of patients' rights to care.

The study results were presented by Steven Passik, PhD at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

The patients who submitted responses to an anonymous, blinded online survey exploring patients' experiences after the rescheduling of hydrocodone reported a range of negative outcomes, including being denied prescriptions for hydrocodone products, pharmacies refusing to fill legitimate prescriptions, increased out-of-pocket expenses, lost work, and suicidal ideation caused by withdrawal symptoms and untreated pain.

A news release from the Millennium Research Institute (which also participated in the research) noted that rescheduling hydrocodone has effectively limited patients to a smaller maximum supply of medication between doctor visits. Patients must also now see a doctor or other prescriber to receive a handwritten prescription renewal for their medication.

The release outlined several key findings from the study:

  • Nearly two-thirds of survey responders reported being unable to access hydrocodone-combination prescriptions. In fact, some patients who had been prescribed a hydrocodone-combination product at the same dose for many years “reported that they were told their doctors would no longer prescribe hydrocodone medications for them.”
  • More than 15 percent of survey responders reported their relationship with their physician or other prescriber had suffered.
  • Survey respondents cited higher expenses from “more frequent doctor’s visits, higher medication co-pays, greater transportation expenses for extra doctor's visits and travel to multiple pharmacies, and lost income related to inability to work due to pain.”
  • 27 percent of responders reported “suicidal thoughts due to being denied their hydrocodone prescriptions.”