Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Don Owens, Deputy Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7767

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779

David Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs
w. (202) 588-7742

Nicholas Florko, Communications Officer, Global Trade Watch
w. (202) 454-5108

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog

Follow us on Twitter


Jan. 25, 2013

Update: "By a 19 to 10 vote, FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee today strongly urged the agency to recommend hydrocodone-containing drugs be moved to more tightly regulated Schedule II under the federal Controlled Substance Act. Because of a dangerous mistake, when the law was passed more than 40 years ago, these drugs were placed in the more lax Schedule III, allowing this powerful narcotic to become the most prescribed drug of any kind in the U.S. Ninety-nine percent of  the world’s manufacture and  use of hydrocodone is in the U.S.  The rest of the world---where the drugs is not allowed at or barely used---will now wonder why took so long for the US to come to its senses and take this step to greatly reduce the future toll after thousands  have already died from its addiction and use." - Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group

U.S. Leads With 99 Percent of World’s Hydrocodone Consumption; FDA Should Restrict Its Use

The Narcotic Is Used in 20 Pain Medications

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ninety-nine percent of the hydrocodone in the world is manufactured and used in the United States – evidence that hydrocodone products are being overprescribed and should be severely restricted in the U.S., Public Citizen told the FDA today.

The FDA is considering whether to make hydrocodone a “schedule II” drug, which would limit the amount a patient could obtain between doctor visits. Rather than get a prescription that provides for five refills (the rule for Schedule III), a patient would get three prescriptions at once from a doctor, fill one each month, then return to the doctor only when the three-month supply was used up.

“The United States is suffering from the world’s worst epidemic of prescription narcotic use, more than half of it being hydrocodone,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, who testified today before the FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee in support of making hydrocodone a schedule II drug. “The reason: It can too easily be prescribed. Requiring doctors to see patients every three months to re-prescribe the drug would dramatically cut down on its misuse.”

The debate comes because of an increase in abuse and overdoses of painkillers in the U.S. According to the U.N.-associated International Narcotics Control Board’s 2011 report, “Narcotic Drugs, ” the U.S. leads the world in consumption per million people of daily doses of all prescription narcotics, with 47,800 doses taken daily. Fifty-five percent of those doses contain hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is found in more than a dozen pain medications, as well as some cough syrups.

According to that report, every year, Americans consume an eye-popping total of 2.6 billion doses a year of hydrocodone, more than 8 doses per person per year, averaged over the whole population. Of the top 100 narcotic-consuming countries, in only one – Canada – do patients take slightly more than 1 percent of the amount of hydrocodone per million people used by U.S. patients, Wolfe said. Hydrocodone is not used in 84 of these 100 top narcotic-prescribing countries.

“More prescription narcotics are prescribed per capita in the United States than anywhere in the world,” Wolfe said. “The fact that patients in other countries manage their pain with a minimal or no use of hydrocodone drugs indicates that the U.S. could move in that direction without any harm to patients.”

To see Wolfe’s presentation, visit http://www.citizen.org/documents/2092.pdf.

Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation


Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.


To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.