(HealthDay News) – On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for tighter controls on prescription painkillers containing the narcotic hydrocodone.

The action comes after years of disagreement over how much leeway doctors should have in prescribing the often-abused drugs. The New York Times reported that the move indicates a major policy shift on drugs including Vicodin, Lortab, or generics that combine hydrocodone with over-the-counter pain medicines like aspirin or acetaminophen.

Currently, hydrocodone painkillers are less tightly monitored than more powerful painkillers such as OxyContin, the Times noted. The FDA-proposed changes would decrease the number of refills patients could receive before returning to their doctor, with supplies lasting 90 days at the most. Doctors would not be able to call in refills – patients would have to take prescriptions to the pharmacy in person.

The regulations would go into effect after approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S Drug Enforcement Agency has pushed for the new recommendation, while some medical groups and pharmacy organizations have opposed it because of the effect on patients, the Times reported.

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