As hospitals, clinics and health systems seek to maximize capacity in alternate care sites to deliver supportive care for patients with COVID-19, one stumbling block has been U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rules governing DEA-registered hospitals, clinics, manufacturers and distributors.

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The satellite care locations may lack the DEA registration usually needed to handle controlled substances essential to critical care. Now the agency has announced it is making an exception to that requirement for the duration of the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency.

The DEA, in a letter posted last week, said that “due to the extraordinary circumstances arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” would allow a health care organization’s existing DEA registration to apply to a satellite hospital or clinic if it meets certain conditions, such as that:

  • It was set up to provide temporary services connected to the public health emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It is authorized by the state in which it operates to handle controlled substances and is doing so in a manner permitted by the state.

The DEA-registered hospital or clinic must maintain appropriate records and notify the local DEA field office in writing that it is opening a satellite location that will handle control substances. Local field offices can be found at the DEA website. The agency also has created a COVID-19 information page.

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The DEA also is allowing, for the course of the pandemic, delivery of controlled substances directly to the nonregistered satellite hospitals or clinics.

Learn more: Stay up to speed on the AMA’s COVID-19 advocacy efforts and track the fast-moving pandemic with the AMA's COVID-19 resource center, which offers a library of the most up-to-date resources from JAMA Network™, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. 

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