DEA clarifies guidance on forwarding unfilled e-prescribed controlled substances

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration recently clarified for pharmacists the protocol for forwarding unfilled prescriptions for controlled substances. The DEA’s associate section chief of the liaison and policy section of the DEA’s Diversion Control division Loren Miller clarified that an original e-prescription can be forwarded one DEA-registered retail pharmacy to another in the event they can’t fill it for any reason.

“As posted in the preambles of the [notice of proposed rulemaking] and the [interim final rule], an unfilled original EPCS prescription can be forwarded from one DEA registered retail pharmacy to another DEA registered retail pharmacy, and this includes Schedule II controlled substances,” Miller said in an email to National Association of Boards of Pharmacy CEO Carmen Catizone.

The clarification represents a victory for patients, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, who reached out to the DEA for clarification on the issue in a May letter to the DEA’s Demetra Ashley, the Diversion Control division’s deputy assistant administrator. It removes the step for pharmacists of contacting a physician to send a new prescription when another pharmacy is unable to fill a patients e-prescription.

“Simply put, this guidance encourages the use of electronic prescribing for controlled substances, and removes a substantial barrier to doing so,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said. “Electronic prescribing has significant advantages over other forms of transmitting a prescription because it reduces opportunities for fraud and abuse.”

The organization has championed e-prescribing of controlled substances as a way to better track prescriptions to monitor for fraud and abuse while ensuring patient access to their medications and reducing the risk of fraudulent prescribing.

"NACDS is unwavering in its commitment to working with all parties to help find and implement solutions to opioid issues, while providing appropriate patient care,” Anderson said. “This has been, and remains, a top priority of NACDS, and we appreciate the DEA's action on this guidance, which we consider to be entirely consistent with patient care and with the proper handling of controlled substances.”

NACDS recently provided comments to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, highlighting the role pharmacies play in curbing the issue.

“Chain pharmacies engage daily in activities with the goal of preventing drug diversion and abuse,” the comments said. “Since chain pharmacies operate in almost every community in the U.S., we support policies and initiatives to combat the prescription drug abuse problem nationwide.”

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