DEA loosens grip on nursing home pain medications

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[Editor's note: The second paragraph of this item has been revised from its original version to reflect new information about the rule from the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.]

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on Thursday issued an interim rule that slightly relaxes its position on pain medications in nursing homes.

The rule comes after a hearing by the Senate Special Committee on Aging a day earlier, during which nursing home representatives said DEA regulations were too strict and often resulted in long delays for nursing home patients who need pain medication. The requirements regarding e-prescribing for controlled drugs are different from the requirements regarding e-prescribing of non-controlled drugs, according to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. Before a physician or other prescriber is able to e-prescribe for controlled drugs, they will need to obtain a credential from an authorized third party that certifies his or her identity. The DEA also requires verification that each authenticated prescriber has a license and a DEA registration and is therefore authorized to e-prescribe controlled drugs. They then will need to use two means of authentication to sign electronic prescriptions, the society said.

Nursing homes will essentially be treated the same as they always have been by the DEA under the new rule, but it could mean nurses will have an easier time accessing pain medication for patients, according to Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Committee on Aging.