Providers cheer as Kohl lifts block on DEA nominee

Share this content:
Michelle Leonhart
Michelle Leonhart

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) has lifted the hold on the nomination of Michelle Leonhart to head the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. That occurred after the U.S. Department of Justice assured him that the DEA would address and improve the delivery of pain medications in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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 has personally agreed to make sure the matter undergoes a review process at the DOJ and administration-wide, according to a statement.

The American Health Care Association and the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging praised Kohl for his leadership.

“This solution brings real relief to our patients and residents who require medication to manage pain,” AHCA President and CEO Bruce Yarwood said in a statement.

“We appreciate that nurses and other health care professionals will now be allowed to act as agents of the practitioner for all prescribed Schedule II-V controlled substances,” noted AAHSA President and CEO Larry Minnix in a statement.

The proposed changes to the Controlled Substances Act would allow a healthcare professional, who is designated by the nursing home as an agent of a DEA-licensed practitioner, to transmit the practitioner's order for a controlled substance to a DEA-licensed pharmacy. The DOJ has promised to deliver draft legislation to Kohl in January so that Kohl can introduce the proposed legislation in the early days of the new Congress.