On May 24, 2013, Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law banning refills on prescriptions for hydrocodone products. Hydrocodone is the narcotic pain killer in combination products such as Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, and Vicoprofen. The law goes into effect on November 1, 2013, and will apply to both in-state and nonresident pharmacies, according to John A. Foust, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy.

“We would expect out-of-state pharmacies, because they are licensed by our Board, that are shipping drugs into our state to not refill prescriptions based upon our law,” Foust said.

The penalties for violating the new law include license suspension, probation or revocation, and fines of up to $3,000 per occurrence.

Until November, prescriptions for hydrocodone products — Schedule III controlled substances — can be refilled five times within six months, as in most other states. After November, existing prescriptions containing refills will be invalid, Foust said.

Oklahoma’s move is part of a growing national trend. In February, New York State reclassified hydrocodone products as Schedule II controlled substances, meaning, among other things, that refills are not permitted. On the national level, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration are currently attempting to reclassify hydrocodone combination products as Schedule II drugs through an administrative process. And on a parallel legislative track, Congress is considering the “Safe Prescribing Act of 2013” (S. 621), which would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to make hydrocodone combination products Schedule II drugs.

There was discussion in Oklahoma about changing the schedule on hydrocodone combination products, but Executive Director Foust noted that such a move would have prevented nurse practitioners and physician assistants from writing prescriptions for the drugs. Midlevel prescribers cannot prescribe Schedule II controlled substances in Oklahoma. In addition, leaving hydrocodone products in Schedule III allows a prescriber to phone in prescriptions for the drug, Foust said. And pharmacists will not be required to comply with the regulations relevant to Schedule II drugs, including inventory, record-keeping, and dispensing requirements.