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FDA expected to restrict doctors' prescription of Schedule II narcotics

Prior to 2007, the FDA complained that it lacked "intermediate" measures to control the improper use of FDA-approved medications.  The abuse of OxyContin and other Schedule II narcotics, and the continuing death rate associated with mis-use of these medications has lead the FDA to seek public input on a plan to restrict physician prescribing of these drugs.

The 24 medicines under review were prescribed 21 million times in 2007, to 3.7 million patients.  In 2008, the holding company of the manufacturer of OxyContin and several Purdue Pharma executives pleaded guilty to misleading physicians about the potential for abusing the long-acting narcotic.   Illegal marketing efforts like this, combined with patient and physician lack of skill and care, have defeated the FDA's repeated efforts to control misuse of Schedule II narcotics. 

According to the New York Times, hundreds of patients die each year, and thousands are injured, as a result of mis-use of these pain medications, and yet they continue to be mis-prescribed because general practitioners and other physicians are unskilled in pain treatment or in recognizing drug abuse.  Most of the drugs removed from the market by the FDA over the past two decades were removed because, like these narcotics, doctors continued to prescribe them for use in a manner (often encouraged by manufacturers and their sales staff) that the FDA had repeatedly warned against. 

With regard to these narcotics, the FDA plans to initiate a program that will prohibit doctors who have not been properly trained in pain management from prescribing them.  It is hoped that this will finally make a dent in the frequency of related injuries and complications by more closely controlling the use of what are valuable--but very dangerous--medications.

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