Reclassifying hydrocodone as a Schedule II narcotic may be of some value in controlling the number of Vicodin prescriptions given out, but this would be of minor benefit. In my experience, most Vicodin prescriptions are for small doses and are written after minor medical procedures or injuries.
The real problem is the deaths caused by the few physicians who don't actually practice medicine but merely prescribe drugs to anyone who asks for them. Most community physicians and pharmacists know who these practitioners are and are amazed that they are rarely caught.
The California Medical Board and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration do not need new appropriations or regulations to find and get rid of these people, just the common sense to use the existing staff and resources wisely.
Paul R. Kuhn, MD
I will undergo lumbar surgery in about a month. My medical history regarding this issue goes back to last June. It was amazing to me that doctors allowed me to start with a daily Vicodin dose of 500 milligrams; less than two months later, I was increased to 1,500 milligrams.
Today, I am in constant pain, but I'd be addicted to Vicodin if I had continued taking it.
Finally, last week, my neurosurgeon prescribed a non-narcotic but more expensive non-generic drug. I didn't ask my doctor for this drug; he prescribed it to me based on my symptoms.
Nevertheless, my insurer declined to cover the drug, which would cost me nearly $350 a month. I guess non-generic drugs are too expensive for my insurer, and thus addiction and rehab is the preferred method of dealing with chronic pain.
So the DEA's crusade to make Vicodin less accessible to people in pain is apparently about to bear fruit. It only seems fair. If the federal government can devote substantial resources to preventing sick people from obtaining pain relief from state-sanctioned medical marijuana, why should patients with prescription painkillers be entitled to less suffering?
It's reassuring to know that our government has the manpower to police hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices to ensure that people in pain won't be the beneficiaries of palliative care without some difficulty.
Fortunately, the Justice Department isn't wasting its personnel on trivialities (such as investigating and prosecuting the bankers and other Wall Street crooks who crashed the economy).
Jeffrey H. Friedman