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FDA Recommends Tighter Control on Common Painkillers

Mike Marsland/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- The FDA is recommending tighter control over the way common painkillers are prescribed.  
The pain medications in question contain hydrocodone combined with Aspirin or Tylenol and are often taken by patients with arthritis, minor injuries or after simple surgery. The FDA wants patients to be able to get fewer refills -- a 90-day supply would be the most you could get -- and prescriptions could no longer be phoned in. Patients would have to present a paper copy at their pharmacy.

In 2011, about 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing medications were written for some 47 million patients, according to government estimates. That volume of prescriptions amounts to about five billion pills.

Part of the reason for this change in policy is because of the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in the United States. More than six million Americans suffer from prescription drug abuse disorders -- an estimated 50 Americans die a day.  Since 1999, deaths among men went up 265 percent and 400 percent among women.

Those at increased risk for abuse include: teens and young adults, men ages 25-54, people in rural counties, soldiers, and veterans.

In 2011, the non-medical use of prescription painkillers cost the U.S. economy $53.4 billion -- 42 billion in lost productivity, $8.2 billion in criminal justice costs, $2.2 billion in drug abuse treatment, and $944 million in medical complications.

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