Concession likely to ease pain-drug flow

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Michelle Leonhart
Michelle Leonhart

After following through on a threat to hold the nomination of Michelle Leonhart to lead the Drug Enforcement Agency due to her inability or unwillingness to address an issue dear to nursing home operators, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) reversed course at the end of December.

Kohl had complained repeatedly that Leonhart, the acting head of the DEA, had not made progress on modifying regulations to permit certain pain-medication dispensing in nursing homes.

But then the U.S. Department of Justice assured Kohl that action would be taken and the former head of the Senate Committee on Aging relented.

Current DEA policy prohibits nursing home nurses from placing orders—either orally or via fax—to pharmacies for painkillers and other Schedule II drugs, including morphine.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder personally agreed to make sure the matter undergoes a review process at the DOJ and administration-wide, according to a statement. Draft legislation was expected by mid-January.