In three days, on October 6, a new rule from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassifies hydrocodone-containing combination painkillers as Schedule II controlled substances. Prescribing procedures for these medications must change, and are more restricted.
If you act very quickly, there's a six-month exception useful for patients who are in remote areas or otherwise challenged by getting refills: "Any prescriptions ... that are issued before October 6, 2014, and authorized for refilling, may be dispensed ... if such dispensing occurs before April 8, 2015." (See the second-last page in the rule published in the Federal Register.)
The American Medical Association has published a handy list of steps you will need to take after October 6 to prescribe these medications, as well as a printout for patients.
In brief, you now need to:
-- Issue new prescriptions. Refills are no longer allowed, and the limit is a 90-day supply.
-- Hand-write prescriptions (unless you and the pharmacy are certified for eScripts). Except for closely regulated emergency procedures, phoned or faxed prescriptions for these painkillers can't be filled.
-- Allied health professionals may not be able to prescribe these drugs, depending on the state where they work