In Response To Public Outcry, The D.E.A. Issues New Prescription Drug Guidelines!


Just last week I wrote about how nursing home residents may be unintended casualties of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s war on drugs. New levels of drug enforcement by the D.E.A that are intended to prevent narcotic abuse have been making it extremely difficult for nursing home residents to receive the prescription drugs that they need.

In the past, medical staff from nursing homes would be able to have a prescription filled for a resident based on instructions given to the pharmacy by the resident’s clinic, nurse or physician over the phone. However, due to the fact that the practice is now under intense scrutiny by the D.E.A., pharmacies are now required to have a written or faxed prescription from the patient’s doctor before dispensing the medicine. This means that some residents are being forced to wait days before getting the prescriptions they need if the doctor prescribing the medication is unavailable. The D.E.A. also issued a statement that nurses who were employed by nursing homes as agents acting in lieu of physicians to call in prescriptions to pharmacists were not to be legally recognized. According to The New York Times, the D.E.A. is “investigating pharmacies in ‘about five states’ for dispensing the drugs to nursing homes without direct written orders from a doctor”.

The D.E.A.’s actions had the nursing home community up in arms as many residents have been forced to suffer excruciating pain while they wait to have their prescriptions faxed by their doctor. Last week, numerous articles (including my blog) surfaced that were highly critical of the D.E.A.’s recent actions. I, as well as many other commentators, urged the D.E.A. and the medical community to do something to shorten the time that it takes for residents to receive their prescriptions.

The D.E.A. must have been paying attention. In response, it has just issued new guidelines that will allow nursing home nurses to call in prescriptions for painkillers and anti-anxiety medication. The new guidelines also permit doctors to authorize more than one nurse or health care worker to communicate the need for medications to a pharmacy. Although the guidelines do not permit nurses to call in prescriptions for some drugs, such as morphine, they are sure to cut down on the amount of time that residents must wait for their medications.

I applaud the D.E.A. for its rapid response and hope that it continues to reform its practices to help residents receive the medications that they need more quickly. I am elated that, for once, a change has taken place QUICKLY where it is needed, and that the suffering of some nursing home residents will be stopped. Furthermore, the D.E.A.’s quick response to the public outcry of its new practice helps to re-enforce my faith in the power of public advocacy. It lets me know that blogs such as mine, and articles, such as that in the New York Times, do help to bring change when needed. Keep this in mind if you ever come across a cause that you are passionate about. Your voice could be a catalyst for change!