U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officially announced the final rule to reschedule hydrocodone-combination drugs, which are found in highly addictive painkillers like Vicodin and Lortab, from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance. Rescheduling these drugs will ensure proper limits for prescription refills, tighter controls at pharmacies and more visits to a doctor before receiving these dangerous drugs. The DEA is the lead federal agency in enforcing narcotics and controlled substances laws and regulations.
“Today was a tremendous step forward in fighting the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is rampant across West Virginia and our country,” Senator Manchin said. “As Governor and now as U.S. Senator, I have diligently fought to stem the tide on the prescription drug abuse, and rescheduling these highly addictive drugs will help prevent them from getting into the wrong hands and devastating families and communities.
“For far too long, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects that these drugs have had on our communities. Job vacancies cannot be filled because of failed drug tests. Family lives are ripped apart because of addiction and overdose deaths. Grandparents, great grandparents and neighbors are raising kids whose parents suffer from addiction. Students are unable to play outside because too many needles blanket their playgrounds. These circumstances are too common and simply unacceptable, which is why I am so grateful that the DEA has finalized the rescheduling process of hydrocodone. Although there is much more that must be done to curb prescription drug abuse, I am confident that rescheduling hydrocodone will undoubtedly begin to save lives immediately.
Timeline of Senator Manchin’s efforts to curb prescription drug abuse below:
May 23, 2012: Senator Manchin included an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act to reschedule hydrocodone. The Senate passed the measure unanimously.
June 2012: Senator Manchin urged negotiators of a House-Senate compromise of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act to support the amendment; however, it was not included in the version of the bill passed in the House of Representatives.
October 29-30, 2012: When Senator Manchin’s measure was omitted in the final piece of legislation that was signed into law, he requested that the Food and Drug Administration hold a Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee hearing, which advises the FDA on the abuse potential of drugs and makes recommendations about how they should be controlled.
January 25, 2013: The FDA’s own advisory committee voted 19-10 to reclassify the highly addictive drug on the same day that Senator Manchin testified at its committee hearing. Senator Manchin shared several stories from West Virginians who have struggled with hydrocodone addictions and family members whose loved ones overdosed on these painkillers.
February 14, 2013: After numerous phone calls and meetings with FDA officials, Senator Manchin, along with seven additional Members of Congress, sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Hamburg to urge immediate action on rescheduling drugs containing hydrocodone to help curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic, as recommended by the FDA’s own advisory board in January 2013.
March 20, 2013: Senator Manchin sponsored the Safe Prescribing Act, along with Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Ed Markey (D-MA), to reclassify hydrocodone painkillers. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation received widespread support from Democrats and Republicans in both legislative chambers, as well as from health care providers, addiction specialists, law enforcement, advocacy groups and victims across the nation.
May 9, 2013: After giving the FDA several months to implement its own committee’s recommendations to reschedule the drug, Senator Manchin sent a letter to Commissioner Hamburg urging the agency to immediately take action and move forward in hydrocodone’s reclassification process without delay.
October 24, 2013: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sebelius informed Senator Manchin in October that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would recommend rescheduling hydrocodone combination drugs from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance.
February 26, 2014: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to place hydrocodone-containing products from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance, which kick-starts the reclassification process.
April 29, 2014: Senator Manchin submitted a public comment to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) encouraging the agency to reschedule hydrocodone-combination drugs from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance.