Senators air frustrations about drug dispensing practices in nursing homes

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Aging Committee chief hears complaints about nursing homes
Aging Committee chief hears complaints about nursing homes

In a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing Wednesday, Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed concern about the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's policies toward the delivery of pain medications in long-term care settings.

“It appears that DEA is putting paperwork before pain relief,” Kohl told Michelle Leonhart, who has been nominated to lead the DEA. “I would like to see much more progress made on this issue before you are confirmed.”

In October, the DEA, under pressure from the Senate, released new guidelines allowing nurses to be agents of physicians to call in painkiller prescriptions orally to pharmacies. But this change doesn't go far enough for committee members, as nurses are still restricted in calling in orders for other important drugs, such as morphine. Kohl is working on legislation that would allow nurses, acting as agents to doctors, to call in controlled substances, including Schedule II drugs, to pharmacies. The Senate committee also conducted an investigation that found much confusion still exists among nurses as to what new protocols allow.