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Article Summary

Oxycodone: Federal Guidelines, Regulations, and Penalties

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance, which is subject to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. The CSA was enacted to control and limit use and distribution of drugs that have a high potential for abuse, including oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. Listing a drug as a controlled substance is not intended to interfere with the way doctors practice medicine or the availability of that drug for patients who may need it for legitimate medical reasons.

The DEA is considered the "watchdog" in charge of enforcing the CSA, but its authority over doctors and how they prescribe controlled substances for medical purposes is limited. This arrangement is intended to protect doctors—such as those who treat patients with terminal cancer—who might come under suspicion for frequently prescribing large quantities of controlled substances. Doctors who prescribe any drug listed as a controlled substance must be registered with the DEA for tracking and monitoring purposes. Hospitals and pharmacies also must register with the DEA. By registering, the doctor, pharmacy, or hospital is given a number that must be used each time a controlled substance is ordered. Any individual or facility that has been issued a DEA registration number is legally obligated to keep detailed records regarding how, when, and to whom the drug was dispensed.

Oxycodone and Fraud

For the most part, the DEA is on the lookout for doctors who are prescribing controlled substances illegally to people who have no medical need for them. Pharmacists and manufacturers of controlled substances are also monitored for suspected abuse of the CSA. Anyone who dispenses controlled substances and is found to be in violation of the CSA faces fines, imprisonment, or both.

Some states have enacted their own laws regarding controlled substances, and have placed legal limits on dosages and the total number of pills that can be prescribed within a specific time period. Some doctors argue that this type of regulation requires patients who take large quantities of pain medication to obtain more frequent prescriptions, thus putting patients at risk of having refills delayed and or encountering problems with their insurance company.

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