MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - Alabama is on track to becoming the first state in the country to classify Xanax on the same level as opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl.
The Alabama Department of Public Health recently moved to reclassify Xanax as a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule IV, at the suggestion of the Board of Medical Examiners. But, the pharmacy community say they've been left out of the conversation.
Dr. David Herrick, President of the Alabama Medical Association says the reclassification of Alprazolam, commercially known as Xanax, is going to save lives.
"Now you will not be able to get refills and you'll have to see your doctor a little more frequently to get the medication and you also can't call it in," said Dr. David Herrick, President, Medical Association of the State of Alabama.
The vocal proponent of making Xanax as a Schedule II Drug says the highly addictive anxiety medicine is a contributing factor to a significant number of overdose deaths.
"When you take a medicine like Xanax, along with something else whether its alcohol or an opioid, it magnifies it, multiplies the effect. So you don't really know how much it's going to affect you. it may affect you way more than you're hoping, it may put you to sleep forever," said Herrick.
Dr. Herrick says Alprazolam is finding its way into our schools and the streets.
"I think the medications when used appropriately are safe in general but there's always some risk and I'm not calling this a dangerous medicine I think it's a medicine that needs respect and it needs to be used more carefully because overuse is where the danger comes in," said Dr. Herrick.
Herrick admits that this creates more work for physicians and pharmacists but he says it's worth it.
"Reclassifying it makes it a little more challenging for both physicians and pharmacists. It's a little bit harder to get it, you can't casually pick up the phone as a physician and call in something for someone so it just makes it a little bit more difficult, it makes physicians think a little bit more about this medicine before they prescribe it," said Herrick.
The pharmacy community is opposed to the reclassification. Pharmacists we spoke with say they'll have to create a new prescription each time and they don't think it will cut down on abuse.
"We had a similar situation with hydrocodone Lortab going to C2, it's now Norco. It didn't have a whole lot of affect; you still see the same amount of prescriptions it just makes it more time consuming filling the prescription because you can't have refills," said Jeremy Nolan, Pharmacist, Adams Drugs.
According to the Alabama Pharmacy Association, they and the Board of Pharmacy was not consulted in this process.
"We definitely should have a say so since we're dispensing the medication, in any law making both sides should be asked their opinion on the situation," said Nolan.
The rule change will carry the maximum restriction possible and changes the way the prescription is filled.
"When you have a Schedule II drug that means you have to see the patient more frequently. You can't write more than three, one-month prescriptions, so that means at the end of three months the patient has to be reevaluated. With a Schedule IV drug you can write a years' worth of refills," said Herrick.
Barring any sort of appeal or legislative action, the reclassification goes into effect June 15.