NCPA seeks 'workable solution' for DEA's Controlled Substances Act interpretation

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A group catering to the nation's community pharmacists sent a letter to a senatorial committee recommending the Drug Enforcement Agency cease enforcement of its current interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act.

In a letter to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts said that although community pharmacies provide prescription drug services for more than 50% of long-term care beds in America, they are being "undermined" by the DEA, which has "[disregarded] the 'nurse-as-agent' paradigm that expedites the approval process for controlled substance pain medications."

DEA’s new interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act in long-term care facilities means that physicians must contact pharmacists directly when a change in a controlled substance pain medication is necessary. Because the pharmacist always needs a hardcopy prescription and the nurse is not allowed to communicate the physician’s orders with the pharmacist directly, the pharmacist is forced to track the physician down to get a faxed copy of the prescription, NCPA said.

“We believe that the DEA is undermining the ability of pharmacists to address controlled substance pain medications needs in long-term care facilities in a timely manner, which can lead to unnecessary suffering for residents with serious health challenges,” Roberts said. “For years, it has been standard practice in long-term care facilities to allow the nurse to relay information between the physician and the pharmacist. Reduced to threatening prescribers with DEA notification for noncompliance. On one hand, pharmacists risk damaging vital collaborative relationships if they report a physician to the DEA for failing to write the required prescriptions; on the other, they risk losing their right to practice pharmacy if they don’t report noncompliant prescribers.”

Roberts did say, however, that the NCPA “would welcome the opportunity to work with the DEA in creating a workable solution for all parties involved that balances the need for quality patient care, while adequately preventing fraud and abuse.”

Click here to read the full statement.

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