Rules Changing for Some Pain Medicine Prescriptions

If you take a prescription pain medicine that includes the drug hydrocodone, the way you get your prescriptions is about to change. And many people with cancer take these medicines.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has re-categorized products that contain hydrocodone plus another pain reliever as Schedule II drugs (up from Schedule III). The decision puts tighter controls on how these medicines can be prescribed and dispensed. Plain hydrocodone and most other opioid pain medicines are already Schedule II drugs and are not affected by this change.

The new rule for hydrocodone combination medicines takes effect in October 2014 and includes the following changes:

  • As of October 6, 2014, new prescriptions for hydrocodone combination medications will not allow for refills. You will have to get a new prescription each time you need a refill. That means going to your doctor’s office or the clinic.
  • Your health care provider will no longer be able to call in these prescriptions to your pharmacy. You’ll need to get a new written prescription each time.

Some of the more common hydrocodone-containing pain medicines include:

  • Vicodin, Vicodin ES, Vicodin HP
  • Lortab, Lorcet, Lorcet Plus
  • Norco
  • Zydone
  • Vicoprofen
  • Any other medicine that includes the word “hydrocodone” and one of the following
    - Aspirin
    - ASA
  • Cough medicines including hydrocodone

Be sure to talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to find out if your pain medicines will be affected by this new law. Your pharmacist can tell you what to expect with any remaining refills you have on current prescriptions; some may be refilled until April of 2015. After that, you’ll need to get a written prescription to get more of these medicines.

If you do need a new prescription, be sure you ask your doctor about it well before you run out of your medicine.

To learn more about cancer pain and how to treat it, visit our section on pain, or call us at


The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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