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AAPA: Recent Media Coverage Misstates Facts On FDA Pain Medication Recommendations

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Physician Assistants found recent media coverage misstating the facts on proposed changes to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules for prescribing pain medications containing hydrocodone. 

In a 19-to-10 vote, the FDA's Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee recommended reclassifying hydrocodone from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II one, rather than imposing a rule that would "ban nurse practitioners and physician assistants from prescribing the drugs," as some major news outlets erroneously reported. This reclassification would limit prescription of these medications in states where PAs and other healthcare providers are not already authorized to prescribe Schedule II drugs. Currently, PAs can prescribe Schedule II medication in all but 14 states.

"While PAs are keenly aware of the overwhelming problems caused by the misuse of prescribed drugs — including products containing hydrocodone — we also urge policymakers to be cautious when legislating policies that will limit access to pain medications for patients with legitimate clinical needs, " said James Delaney, PA-C, AAPA president. "AAPA continues to support and promote the responsible prescription of medication as part of the profession's dedication to delivering high-quality healthcare."

In 2012, AAPA recommended to Congress that a proposal to reclassify hydrocodone products from Schedule III to Schedule II be eliminated from the Prescription Drug User Fee Act and expressed concern that other legislated barriers imposed on Schedule II drugs have made it more difficult for some patients to receive or refill legitimate prescriptions. 

The recommendation by the FDA's Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee does not mean that hydrocodone products will be automatically moved to the Schedule II classification, or that the FDA will agree to implement the committee's recommendation. If approved by the FDA, the committee's recommendation would then be subject to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' regulatory process before implementation.

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