Published Online: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

New rules proposed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will allow physicians to write prescriptions for 90-day supplies of potent painkillers and other Schedule II controlled substances, including OxyContin (oxycodone) and Ritalin (methylphenidate).

DEA officials said that the proposed rule change "will make it easier for patients with chronic pain or other chronic conditions to avoid multiple trips to a physician." Under the plan, physicians must first determine that a patient has a legitimate medical need for the prescribed substance before prescribing a 90-day supply of drugs.

Along with the regulatory proposal, the agency released a new policy statement requested by pharmacists and physicians to clarify the DEA's position on "Dispensing Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain." The new policy statement outlines the DEA's requirement that controlled substances be prescribed only for a legitimate medical purpose. It also elaborates on the agency's policy of taking legal action against physicians who illegally prescribe controlled substances.

"The statement reflects an awareness of patients' needs as well as the importance of preventing any illegal diversion of prescription drugs," said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy.

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