The Effect of a Federal Controlled Substance Act Schedule Change on Hydrocodone Combination Products Claims in a Medicaid Population

UMMS Affiliation

Commonwealth Medicine; Center for Health Policy and Research; Clinical Pharmacy Services; Office of Clinical Affairs

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Services Administration | Health Services Research


BACKGROUND: In 2012, hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) were the most prescribed medications in the United States. Under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, hydrocodone alone was classified as a Schedule II drug, while HCPs were classified as Schedule III, indicating a lower risk for abuse and misuse. However, according to a Drug Enforcement Agency analysis, the addition of nonopioids has not been shown to diminish abuse potential of hydrocodone. In response to concerns for drug abuse and overdose, the Drug Enforcement Agency rescheduled HCPs to Schedule II in October 2014, with the intent of limiting overprescribing and increasing awareness of their abuse potential. However, it is unknown whether this has affected the overall claims for HCPs in a Medicaid population.

OBJECTIVES: To (a) compare the trend in HCP prescription claims with select non-HCP (opioid and nonopioid) analgesic claims before and after the HCP schedule change in the Massachusetts Medicaid fee-for-service/Primary Care Clinician plan population and (b) identify if there was a change in HCP new start member and claim characteristics before and after the HCP schedule change.

METHODS: This quasi-experimental, retrospective study used enrollment and pharmacy claims data to evaluate all members in the study population 1 year before and after the HCP schedule change. The number of claims for HCPs and select non-HCP analgesics was reported as the monthly rate per total population, and an interrupted time series analysis compared the change in the monthly rate of claims across groups. Members with 1 or more pharmacy claims for a new HCP prescription during a 5-month period before or after the HCP schedule change were analyzed to determine member demographics (age, gender, and number of claims) and claim characteristics (average daily dose, average quantity per claim, and days supply).

RESULTS: The rate of HCP claims increased before and decreased after the HCP schedule change. Controlling for the trend during the period before the HCP schedule change, the rate of HCP claims per 1,000 members per month decreased at a greater rate than non-HCP analgesics in the period after the HCP schedule change (P < 0.001). The percentage of HCP claims for new start members decreased after the HCP schedule change (44.9% vs. 34.1% of all HCP claims pre- to post-schedule change; P < 0.001). In the group of new starts, there was not a significant difference in the average daily dose (26.3 mg vs. 26.4 mg; P = 0.69), while there was a decrease in average number of tablets dispensed per claim (from 37.1 to 20.3 tablets; P < 0.001) and an increase in the percentage of claims for a shorter days supply (from 57.7% to 81.6%; P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study suggest that the HCP schedule change may have contributed to the decrease in claims for HCPs in a Medicaid population. After the HCP schedule change, there was a trend towards decreased HCP use among new starts.

DISCLOSURES: No outside funding supported this study. The authors have nothing to disclose. Study concept and design were contributed by all authors except for Arnold and Clements. Tran, Arnold, and Clements took the lead in data collection, along with Peristere, and data interpretation was performed by all the authors, except Arnold. The manuscript was written primarily by Tran, along with Lavitas, Stevens, and Greenwood, and revised by all the authors except Arnold and Peristere. A poster of this research project was presented at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy's 2016 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, April 2016.

DOI of Published Version



J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2017 May;23(5):532-539. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2017.23.5.532. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of managed care and specialty pharmacy

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Link to Article in PubMed

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