Prescriptions for the painkiller hydrocodone/acetaminophen* have increased dramatically, from 121 million doses in 2006 to 131 million today, a new national survey shows. The survey, conducted by IMS Health, showed hydrocodone/acetaminophen prescriptions far outpaced the runner-up, the cholesterol drug simvastain (Zocor).
ABC News reports that the United States consumes 80 percent of the world’s opioids, and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone. More than 600,000 doctors are licensed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to prescribe hydrocodone/acetaminophen, according to ABC News. Primary care doctors write the most prescriptions for the drug, followed by internists and dentists. Critics say hydrocodone is often the drug of choice because it is not as tightly regulated as other narcotic painkillers, according to the news report.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said accidental overdoses of hydrocodone/acetaminophen and other narcotic painkillers kill more people than car accidents in 17 states.
*Both this article and the original ABC News piece used the brand name Vicodin, but were meant to include the term hydrocodone/acetaminophen.