NCPA Says Drug Law Undermines Pharmacists, Hurts Seniors

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) issued a statement Wednesday that strongly criticized changes in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The changes, the NCPA said, conflict with standard procedures in long-term care facilities that allow seniors to receive prescriptions for pain medication quickly as need arises.

Under the act’s previous interpretation, nurses served as intermediaries between physicians and pharmacists, relaying prescription information to pharmacists in order to prevent treatment delays. Now, physicians must write prescriptions in hard copy and transmit those prescriptions directly to pharmacists via fax, a bureaucratic barrier the NCPA considers unnecessary and potentially unethical.

The circumstances present a dilemma for community pharmacists, who must now choose between reporting physicians who do not submit physical prescription slips--and refusing to fill prescriptions for patients in vital need--or violating the Controlled Substances Act as it is interpreted by the DEA.

The statement, entitled “The War on Drugs Meets the War on Pain: Nursing Home Residents Caught in the Crossfire,” was submitted in conjunction with the US Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing. The NCPA has expressed interest in collaborating with the federal officials to find a more reasonable solution.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the DEA in creating a workable solution for all parties involved that balances the need for quality patient care, while adequately preventing fraud and abuse,” said Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA’s executive vice president and CEO.

For more information, view the original statement here.