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Commonly asked questions regarding DEA registration and DEA numbers



For many healthcare organizations and pharmacies - DEA Registration Number or DEA Number is a critical, highly-regulated provider identifier that - if not properly checked and monitored - can carry significant risk. Though for how common (and critical) this identifier is for providers and employers - there continues to be confusion around what this number is, when and how to perform a DEA Number lookup, and what the recent changes to the registry’s management might mean.

What is the DEA Number?

A DEA Registration Number is a unique identifier provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency to medical practitioners like pharmacists, nurse practitioners, doctors, dentists, etc… allowing them to prescribe, dispense and administer drugs defined to be Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS). Similar to physicians, some states allow Nurse Practitioners (NPs) to prescribe, administer or dispense controlled substances.

Who requires a DEA Number?

Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), any practitioner prescribing, dispensing or administering CDS must have a valid DEA number. However, a DEA Number is not needed if the provider only prescribes Non-Controlled Substance. It’s possible that a physician may operate under a hospital’s DEA number if and when operating within that specific entity.

What is the purpose of the DEA Number?

Under the CSA, the DEA number is required to be included on prescriptions or orders for any CDS. This is in an effort to limit the ordering of these drugs to only qualified practitioners while also transferring this responsibility to the practitioner (and therefore also their employer).

The DEA Number is designed to have an impact in 3 key ways:

  1. Tracking - DEA registration numbers help track where prescriptions and by whom controlled dangerous substances are being prescribed and administered.
  2. Accountability - By tracking prescriptions of CDS, the DEA is able to drive accountability amongst both prescribing practitioners and the healthcare institution.
  3. Control - Through greater accountability of both provider and institution, the Drug Enforcement Agency aims to maintain greater control of the abuse of controlled substances.

Who sets the requirements for the DEA Number?

While Federal law (CSA) requires the DEA number for controlled substances, it’s important to note the licensure and regulation specifically governing these medical professionals primarily occurs at the state level - with some states requiring additional Controlled Substance Registration in order to prescribe.

DEA vs. NPI Number?

Since DEA Numbers are unique identifiers, insurance companies and pharmacies can often use the number as provider identification - though it’s important to note that it is different than an National Provider Identifier (NPI) number. An initial, yet obvious difference between the two unique identifiers is the issuing agency. The NPI is issued by CMS, while the DEA Number comes from, well...the DEA.  

The NPI Number, specifically used for Medicare & Medicaid billing, can also be used to identify and track a much broader set of transactions a provider may perform, while the DEA Number is a requirement specifically for prescribing and administering controlled substances.  

Similar to how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares - All providers with a DEA Number will have an NPI, but not all providers with an NPI will have a DEA number.

What are recent changes to the DEA Number Database?

As of November 17th, 2020, the DEA took over its Registration Information Database from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), who previously managed it. This has meaningful implications as the NTIS previously provided both search and simple flat file options, which are no longer supported.

Organizations must now access the data via the new DEA website - resulting in some primary source verification providers to no longer offer DEA lookup services due to the increased data accessibility requirements. These DEA Number lookup sites previously used simple web interfaces unable to perform the necessary records validation on the new data set, or continuously retrieve updated files to ensure up-to-date accuracy.

When it comes to DEA Number registration, Verifiable is working with numerous healthcare organizations to help them maintain compliance, minimize manual efforts and easily centralize results in the existing systems they rely on most. To see how Verifiable can help do the same for you - get in touch!

See how Verifiable can help you maintain compliance & minimize manual efforts. Get a demo

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