(Editor's Note: The DEA announced on Dec. 20 that it has reversed its decisions to send only one registration renewal notice to prescribers and to eliminate the grace period for renewals beginning Jan. 1. Registrants now will receive a second renewal notification at the email address associated with their registration, and the DEA will retain the rest of its current policies and procedures for renewals.)
In a notice posted online,(www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov) the DEA has announced some critical changes in its registration renewal process that family physicians and other prescribers would do well to heed.
For starters, beginning Jan. 1, the agency will send only a single renewal notice to each registrant stating that his or her registration is set to expire. That notice, which will go to the "mail to" address on file with the agency, will be mailed about 65 days in advance of the scheduled expiration date. No additional renewal reminders will be sent.
On top of that, DEA officials advise that the ability to renew a registration online after the expiration date will no longer be available. If a registrant fails to complete the renewal process by midnight EST on his or her expiration date, that registrant will be forced to go back to square one to apply for a new DEA registration. The original registration will not be reinstated, according to the agency.
Similarly, paper renewal applications received after the expiration date will not be accepted. If the agency fails to receive a registrant's paper renewal materials by the expiration date, they will be returned, and the registrant will need to submit an application for a new DEA registration.
Needless to say, the announced changes, which appear on the Diversion Control Division website jointly hosted by the DEA and the Department of Justice, have spurred a good deal of angst among physicians, including prompting the AMA to send a letter on Dec. 9(searchlf.ama-assn.org) to DEA Acting Administrator Charles Rosenberg protesting the changes.
"The new process will impose increased administrative burdens on physicians," warned AMA EVP and CEO James Madara, M.D., in the letter, "since they will need to submit entirely new registration applications and then wait for DEA to review the application and issue a new registration number." Under the current system, he added, as long as a physician's registration renewal was in process, pharmacies could treat the registration as valid.
The unfortunate result of the agency's move, Madara added, will be that if a physician misses the renewal cutoff by any margin, his or her registration will fail to appear on information provided to pharmacies. In that case, the physician's prescription will not be honored, and patients will not be able to receive their medications, including an emergency 72-hour supply.
Furthermore, said Madara in the letter, because registrations occur on a monthly basis, these problems will crop up anew each month, causing havoc for pharmacists and pharmacy staff.
And finally, should a prescription written by a physician whose registration has been terminated be filled inadvertently, that prescription's validity comes into question. This issue could create unanticipated fallout for state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), should reports to PDMPs from pharmacies that make such an error be rejected as inaccurate.
The letter closes with an appeal that DEA officials consider the unintended consequences of such a move, reverse the change and maintain the policy of allowing an unofficial grace period for registration renewal.
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