Just like physicians, DEA regulations require that Pharmacists bear responsibility for ensuring that prescriptions are valid and for a medical purpose only. Large pharmacy chains, such as Walgreens and CVS pharmacy, have been fined tens of millions of dollars by the DEA for violating the rules and regulations for dispensing controlled substances. As a result, larger chains have tightened up, such as including the creation of “red flag” checklists to screen patients receiving narcotic prescriptions. Drug manufacturers have also put pressure on pharmacies by refusing to fill orders if they suspect the pharmacy is not adhering to DEA regulations. This has led to hypervigilance, resulting in large pharmacies often refusing to accept a physician’s prescriptions if pharmacists spot problems with the prescriptions, the patients, or the physician’s practice.
So What Should Physicians Do If a Pharmacy Refuses to Fill Their Prescriptions?
First, the physician will generally receive a letter from the pharmacy giving notice that a particular chain will no longer fill their prescriptions. Your first step should be to contact an attorney experienced in DEA audits to audit your practice and check for inconsistencies or violations of DEA regulations. Once a detailed audit is performed, your attorney can contact the pharmacy chain and discuss the improvements that will be put in place to reassure the pharmacy that prescriptions are being written in the regular course of practice and for a legitimate medical need. This reassurance commonly goes a long way with large pharmacy chains. Generally, this approach is effective in gaining the cooperation of the pharmacy and rectifying the problem.
Pharmacies Reporting Physicians to the DEA and Subsequent DEA Audits
Physicians, dentists, psychiatrists, and other prescribers must be aware that once the pharmacy stops accepting a physician’s prescriptions, they will usually report this issue to the DEA, which may spark DEA interest and possibly a DEA audit. If you are proactive in preforming your own audit and implementing changes, your efforts could save your practice, prevent massive DEA fines for violations of the Controlled Substances Act, and possibly prevent criminal charges.