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Food and Drug Administration upscheduling of hydrocodone and the effects on nurse practitioner pain management practices

Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners


Abstract

Purpose: In 2013, the Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration determined hydrocodone combination medications (HCMs) needed tighter regulation due to high abuse potential; they recommended upscheduling HCMs from Schedule III to II. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of upscheduling of HCMs on pain management practices of advanced practiced registered nurses (APRNs) in Oklahoma.

Methods: In this qualitative study, 25 participants described their primary care experiences after the upscheduling. A thematic analysis was used to understand the effects on APRN pain management practices.

Conclusions: The upscheduling of HCMs has greatly affected the pain management practices of APRNs in a state where Schedule II narcotic prescribing is forbidden. Findings will assist APRNs with improving patient access to care, implementing practice regulations, and exploring options for alternative pain therapies in primary care.

Implications for practice: Upscheduling of HCMs has had a severe impact on APRNs, affecting their prescribing practices and leading to increased referrals. They noted limited treatment options, increased health care costs, and decreased access to care. The APRNs understand the problem of prescription opioid abuse, diversion, and misuse. A consensus model could standardize the regulatory process for APRNs, increase interstate mobility for practice, and increase access to APRN care nationwide.

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