The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill on May 16, 2013, banning refills on prescriptions for hydrocodone products. Hydrocodone is the narcotic pain killer in combination products such as Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, and Vicoprofen. The bill — H.B. No. 1783 — is now on Governor Mary Fallin’s desk for consideration. If Gov. Fallin signs it, the law will go into effect on November 1, 2013.
Currently, prescriptions for hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance, can be refilled five times within six months in Oklahoma and most other states. The original House version of the bill would have allowed for two refills, but a Senate amendment eliminated any refills.
This is part of a growing national trend. In February, New York State reclassified hydrocodone as a Schedule II controlled substance, 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.
Oklahoma’s bill does not reschedule hydrocodone; it simply prevents refills on prescriptions. But the impact on patients and prescribers would likely be similar — a patient would need to see a prescriber every month to get a new prescription, if needed. For pharmacists, while they would not be able to refill hydrocodone prescriptions, the bill does not require them to comply with other regulations relevant to Schedule II drugs, including inventory, record-keeping, and dispensing requirements.