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COVID-19 - Schedule II Scripts by Phone now OK in Emergencies per DEA

Chicago Pharmacist LawyerAs of March 30, 2020, the DEA will allow oral prescriptions of schedule II controlled substances when:

  • they are needed for the proper treatment of a patient;
  • there are no appropriate treatment options; and,
  • when submitting an electronic or paper prescription to the pharmacy prior to dispensing the substance is not possible.

Physicians and other prescribers can make the determination to phone in the emergency schedule II script after reviewing the circumstances for each patient, and that review must include the above criteria. Clearly, not every controlled II prescription will be prescribed by phone.

Pharmacists must be aware of qualifications that apply before you can dispense that phone script. First, oral prescriptions are limited to only the adequate amount the patient needs right away. Schedule II prescriptions that go past this period are still subject to the requirement for paper or electronic submission. Second, pharmacists must put the script into writing ASAP, and must cover all of the required fields besides the prescriber’s signature. 

While we always advocate that you read the DEA guidance yourself, note that pharmacists must make a good faith effort to verify that a DEA-registered practitioner is calling the script in, especially if you have not worked with the prescriber before. The DEA allows for a callback to the prescribing individual practitioner using the phone number that appears in the phone directory. 

When it comes to controlled substances and prescriptions being called in for immediate need, pharmacists must not let the pandemic and the loosening of regulations affect their judgment. While the DEA may have good reasons to allow this variance, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will hold you – as always – to your responsibilities contained in your professional Act and Rules, and the applicable professional community standards. Williams & Nickl represents pharmacists and protects their professional licenses when IDFPR comes calling. Edward W. Williams is the former Chief of Prosecutions at IDFPR, and understands that consulting to and representing professional licensees during the pandemic is critical.

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