Click here for a PDF of the Health Care Law Alert: DEA Issues Interim Final Rule on Electronic Controlled Substances Prescriptions.

On March 24, 2010, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an interim final rule which will allow electronic prescriptions for controlled substances. The interim final rule appears in today’s Federal Register and will be effective June 1, 2010 unless the effective date is modified following Congressional review. The DEA is accepting public comments on the rule through June 1, 2010.

Prior to the interim final rule, electronic prescriptions for controlled substances were not permitted. All prescriptions required the original hard copy signature of the DEA registered practitioner. Controlled substances in schedules III through V could be transmitted orally or by facsimile, but all schedule II substances required a hard copy prescription with original signature, except in limited emergency situations. The final rule removes these barriers and permits all DEA registrants to transmit electronic prescriptions to pharmacies for schedule II through V controlled substances. Generally, the new rule adds to the existing regulations on controlled substances prescribing to address e-prescribing and does not replace or change existing rules.

The interim final rule follows a proposed rule issued by the DEA in 2008. This long-awaited interim final rule made several changes to the proposed rule and will allow practitioners to incorporate e-prescribing into electronic health records. Most of the provisions in the new rule relate to required specifications for computer software applications used for e-prescribing. Practitioners should be aware of these technical requirements for e-prescribing to ensure that their software vendors include the required capabilities. In addition, pharmacies should review the requirements and be prepared to receive e-prescriptions for controlled substances.

The above represents a brief excerpt from this Health Care Law Alert. To download a PDF of the entire Alert, click on the link at the top of this page.