DEA Still Confused

I just received a response to my letter to the DEA inquiring as to whether policy regarding use of a stylus and tablet computer to manually sign a controlled substance prescription before electronically faxing to a pharmacy has changed since my OBOT practice was audited several years ago. According to the letter dated February 6, 2014, such a prescription is acceptable, but not acceptable.

In her letter Cathy A. Gallagher, Chief, Liaison and Policy Section writes, "What you propose does not comply with the CSA and its implementing regulations." She cites "Interim Final Rule with Request for Comment titled Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances (EPCS) (75 FR 16235)... A prescription that contains an electronic image of a written signature does not comply with federal requirements." and "A prescription for a schedule III-V controlled substance may be sent via facsimile to a pharmacy... 'A practitioner may sign a paper prescription in the same manner as he would sign a check or legal document... with ink or indelible pencil, typewriter [I am so glad it is still okay to use a typewriter.], or printed on a computer printer and shall be manually signed by the practitioner. A computer-generated prescription that is printed out or faxed by the practitioner must be manually signed'... 'a faxed prescription is a paper prescription... It is not permissible to electronically generate and fax a controlled substance prescription without the practitioner manually signing it.'"

I understand that manual signature implies use of one's hand and a writing instrument. A stylus clearly qualifies. But DEA still requires that we start with ink or indelible pencil on paper. Never mind that the pharmacist will never see the paper or the ink since only an "electronic image" of that ink will reach the pharmacy. But according to the rule, "A prescription that contains an electronic image of a written signature does not comply with federal requirements." Go figure.

Never mind that this policy increases cost and increases risk of errors in dispensing controlled substances. Never mind the wasted paper. Never mind that different elements of these rules contradict one another. Turn back your clock to 1980, and you will understand how our nanny government and its irrational rules failed Philip Seymour Hoffman and too many others like him.

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