The Washington Times - March 20, 2013, 10:08AM

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to reclassify hydrocodone drugs such as Vicodin to reflect their high potential for addiction amid a nationwide “epidemic” of painkiller abuse.

Sens. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, and Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, teamed up with Reps. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, and Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, to introduce the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013 in both chambers of Congress. The bill would classify the painkillers as so-called Schedule II drugs — instead of Schedule III — to more effectively portray their potency, the lawmakers said.


“This growing nationwide prescription-drug abuse epidemic with drugs containing hydrocodone has already destroyed too many communities and devastated too many families,” Mr. Manchin said.

For years, advocates and lawmakers have sounded the alarm over prescription drugs, both among recreational users and patients who fell into the grips of addiction after their prescribed dosages were no longer necessary.

The new legislation would require patients to hold a written prescription to obtain hydrocodone drugs, except in emergencies. They would have to present their original prescription at the pharmacy to obtain a refill, and the bill imposes harsher penalties for trafficking in the drugs.

The bills have attracted dozens of original co-sponsors from both parties.