Government Crackdown on Painkillers

The Drug Enforcement Administration fights to make Vicodin harder to get.
2:09 | 01/24/13

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Transcript for Government Crackdown on Painkillers
And, we move now to the crackdown on the epidemic use of prescription pain killers in america. Consider this. The united states, just 4.5% of the world's population, consumes 99% of the world's hydro coe done, the open yat in vicodin. Vicodin, the single most popular pain kill earl in this country. So, what is the big new thing the government wants to do? Abc's david kerley tells us. Reporter: It is an epidemic of addiction. Pharmacy robberies where crooks are stealing vicodin and other drugs. T the command is staggering, with estimates ranging in the millions of americans addicted to vicodin-type drugs. Not just the rich, but housewives, like jerri, who was followed on the a&e program, "intervention." But these pills for pain can also be deadly. Brandi meshad, just 16 years old, took too much vicodin and other drugs, and died. Too easy to pull something out of somebody's medicine cabinet. Reporter: In 2011, 131 million prescriptions were written for the mix of the vicodin. It's a mix of the ingredient in tylenol and hydrocodone. The drug enforcement administration can't win the battle, and is pleading to make it harder to get vicodin. It would help reduce the abuse potential. Reporter: The drug enforcement administration which has seen the huge spike in farmly robberies, cannot win the battle and is pleading to make it harder to get vicodin. And that's what worries doctors and patients who use vicodin appropriately to control pain. If it's classified as a more dangerous drug, that could drive up costs for makers and doctors, more paper work. Patients would have to make more visits to the doctor for refills. Spending more in copays. We do have a national crisis. With prescription medications. And something needs to be done. Reporter: Balancing use that helps millions of americans in pain against the abuse that leads to this. A recommendation comes tomorrow. David kerley, abc news, washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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