DEA Protecting Prescription Drug Supply

During the unprecedented health emergency caused by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the health and safety of our communities is DEA’s top priority. DEA is responding appropriately to ensure Americans continue to have access to necessary medications and controlled substances. DEA’s efforts include supporting prescribing practices that limit exposure, enabling uninterrupted access to practitioners, and safeguarding a consistent and reliable drug supply.

“During this uncertain time, DEA remains flexible and committed to ensuring that the nation’s drug supply chain is uninterrupted,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “DEA continues to work with our public health partners to explore options that ensure those in need of vital prescriptions are able to get them, while still adhering to safe practices such as social distancing.” 

On January 31, 2020, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in response to COVID-19. Following this announcement, DEA worked in consultation with HHS to allow DEA-registered practitioners to begin issuing prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical evaluation. DEA-registered practitioners may continue this telemedicine practice for as long as the designation is in effect, if all required conditions are met:

  • The prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice
  • The telemedicine communication is conducted using an audio-visual, real-time, two-way interactive communication system.
  • The practitioner is acting in accordance with applicable Federal and State law.

Provided the practitioner satisfies these requirements, the practitioner may issue the prescription using any of the methods of prescribing currently available adhering to DEA regulations, including issuing a prescription electronically or by calling in a prescription to the pharmacy.  

DEA-registered manufacturers, distributors, and importers of controlled substances having issues with supply chain, should contact their local DEA field office, or email DEA at Natural.Disaster@usdoj.gov.

DEA is also working with its federal partners, DEA registrants, and their representative associations to ensure there is an adequate supply of controlled substances and medications in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. DEA is in constant communication with controlled substance manufacturers, distributors, and importers, and is unaware of any drug shortages at this time.

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