DEA Establishes Final Rule on E-Prescribing of Controlled Drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced its interim final rule for electronic prescribing of controlled substances. The rule became effective on June 1, 2010, and it may be amended in the future depending on public comment.

Pharmacy organizations have been working with the DEA for more than a decade to draft rules for electronic prescriptions of controlled substances.  According to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), e-prescribing for controlled substances will likely not happen for at least another year.  Nonetheless, the proposed rules are practical for pharmacists, prescribers and the DEA.

The DEA’s new rule manages electronic prescribing for both controlled and non-controlled pharmaceutical products, whereas before pharmacies were required to keep a paper-and-fax workflow for prescribing controlled substances.  The rule also reduces the electronic record-keeping requirement from 5 years to 2 years and eases verification procedures.

Prior to the release of the DEA’s final rule, federal regulations prohibited the use of e-prescribing for controlled substances due to abuse and security concerns.  The rule takes the first step in alleviating what many saw as a substantial impediment to the adoption of e-prescribing.  Accordingly, the rule is expected to increase the number of providers adopting healthcare IT systems.

Some obstacles that will have to be overcome in e-prescribing for controlled substances are verifying digital signatures, standardizing procedures to change the strength (or any element) of a prescription and standardizing procedures to transfer prescriptions.  The DEA will also need to establish whether it will standardize identifiers that prescribers use to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

For more detailed information on the DEA’s new rule, please click here.