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Maine Lawmaker Seeks Limits on Powerful Opiate

AUGUSTA, Maine - Hydrocodone is a powerful opiate that has been prescribed mostly in a formulation that includes acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain medication.

Rep. Mick Devin, a Democrat from Newcastle, wants lawmakers to set limits on how a purer form of the drug is prescribed because of its strength and the danger of addiction.

"This bill is designed to minimize the use and distribution of uncut hydrocodone so that only those who would benefit the most would have access," Devin told colleagues. "Even then, the goal would be to ensure patients are transitioned away from the drug as soon as possible."

The Maine Medical Association opposed the bill, saying lawmakers shouldn't be telling doctors what to do. "Let me acknowledge, too, that I understand there is a fair amount of controversy within medicine about Zohydro," the association's Andrew MacLean said. "But we don't like the notion of legislating the practice of medicine."

But Rep. Patricia Hymanson, a Democrat from York who is a neurologist, told fellow members of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee that use of the long-acting form of hydrocodone - one brand name is Zohydro - is controversial in the medical community with many doctors opposed to its use.