Rx industry already using DEA-proposed rule
■ Physicians face problems prescribing controlled substances online even though the regulation is not yet final.
By Andis Robeznieks — Posted April 19, 2004
While the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is formulating new rules to rein in prescription drug abuse, reports are coming out that private businesses are already tightening up their policies in anticipation of stricter federal regulations.
Joel Hochman, MD, a Houston-based psychiatrist and executive director of the National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain, was alarmed last month when he tried to telephone in a hydrocodone prescription using an electronic prescribing service and was informed that such prescriptions required an original signature and were no longer being taken by phone.
Upset, Dr. Hochman sent an e-mail to his organization's members decrying the DEA's "unilateral" action.
However, DEA representative Rogene Waite said the agency has proposed new standards for electronic transmission and is reviewing placing more restrictions on hydrocodone prescribing, but such rules cannot be implemented without publication in the Federal Register and solicitation of public comment -- a process that takes several months to complete.
Allan Weinstein, MD, CEO and co-founder of OnCallData, the prescribing service used by Dr. Hochman, said the company made a business decision to adopt policies conforming to the proposed regulations in advance.
Others are also acting on the proposed rules. Siobhan Reynolds, executive director of the Pain Relief Network, said she's learned of pharmacies that only dispense a week's supply of pain medication instead of a month's worth. She expressed concern about the increased burden this places on patients.
Not all reaction to the DEA proposals is negative. Fred Freitag, DO, associate director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago said new DEA regulations will help protect patient health.
"I don't see it as an imposition, I see it as continuous steps to improve the quality of care being given," said Dr. Freitag, adding there is potential for abuse with the current system. "If you have your wits about you, anyone can call in a prescription and it would be the devil to track."