On March 24, 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the Department of Justice released its Interim Final Rule (IFR) on the electronic prescribing of controlled substances. DEA is providing for a comment period on the IFR to end 60 days from formal publication in the Federal Register, expected March 31, 2010. Until then, an unofficial version of the IFR can be found at http://www.federalregister.gov/inspection.aspx#spec_D.

DEA implements the Controlled Substances Act, regulating the manufacturing, distributing and dispensing of controlled substances. For several years issues remained unresolved in the area of electronic prescribing, where DEA's regulatory authority overlaps the federal health information technology (health IT) agenda. The resulting inability to prescribe controlled substances electronically as part of ongoing e-prescribing initiatives has been a barrier to health IT adoption efforts. Electronic prescribing is considered foundational to the nation's agenda for achieving safety, quality, and efficiency in a reformed health care system.

Health care providers, the information technology industry, and other stakeholders will now have an opportunity to review and comment on this long-awaited regulatory action.