How to Obtain and Maintain DEA Registration
Our investigative experts work with veterinary practices across the country, and one regulatory compliance issue that we see causing confusion repeatedly is one of the most basic – the DEA registration. Despite its straightforward process, obtaining and upholding this registration continues to generate questions and concerns among veterinary practitioners.
At TITAN, we take care to remind our clients that having a DEA registration is a privilege, not a right. As a veterinary practitioner, when you register with the DEA to handle controlled substances, you are granted legal authority to prescribe, administer, and dispense these potent medications. You are also accepting full legal responsibility for all aspects of how you and your practice work with those powerful drugs. Fail badly enough to cease to meet your legal obligations, and your registration could be revoked.
How to Obtain (and Maintain) Your DEA Registration
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), veterinarians (along with physicians, dentists, scientific investigators, pharmacies, hospitals, and certain mid-level practitioners) who wish to handle controlled substances must be registered with the DEA or have some type of official, legal exemption from registering. Keep in mind: as a DEA- registered practitioner, you may only engage in activities with controlled substances that are authorized under your state’s laws where your practice is located. And if federal regulations differ from your state’s regulations, you must follow whichever is more stringent.
Obtaining your registration
So, how do you apply for a DEA registration? Just submit DEA Form 224 online or via hard copy. Be sure you have all required state licenses and certifications (some states have separate controlled substance licenses) before you apply for the DEA registration.
How many DEA registrations do you need? This is one of the most common points of confusion, especially for veterinarians who work at multiple clinics. It comes down to where you fit under the following conditions:
- If you have only one clinic or office where you practice, you only need one registration.
- If you have multiple clinics/offices in one state and you only prescribe controlled substances at those multiple locations, you only need one registration.
- If you have multiple clinics/offices in one state and you have supplies of controlled substances to administer or dispense at those multiple locations, you need a separate DEA registration for each location.
- If you practice in multiple states, you need a DEA registration for each state where you practice.
When you apply for your DEA registration, be sure to keep an important concept in mind: the “registered location”. The business address you provide on your DEA application is considered your “registered location” – the primary place of business where your DEA certificate, all required records, and controlled substances must be kept and readily retrievable for DEA inspections.
Maintaining your registration
A common mistake veterinarians make is listing their home address as the registered location. While the law does not prohibit using your home address as the registered location, doing so means you automatically give DEA investigators permission to come there, enter the premises, and request required records. If the required records are not in the registered location (your home), it is considered a legal violation.
The DEA registration does, however, allow for a separate “mail to” address where all official correspondence (including renewal reminders) will be sent. Using a home address as your “mail to” is allowed, and does not have the legal entanglements of a registered location.
Don’t forget to renew your registration before the deadline: Your DEA registration renews every three years using Form 224a on the DEA registration page (see below). But the DEA has changed its approach to renewals in a crucial way!
Unlike the old days when there were multiple reminders and grace periods to complete the renewal, today if you miss the renewal deadline, your DEA number is removed and cannot be retrieved. You will have to get an entirely new DEA registration. Don’t delay or your number goes away!
If you move your practice to a new physical location, you must request a modification of your registration either online or in writing to your local DEA field office. If your address change involves moving to another state, you must be sure to have all required state licenses and state-controlled substance registrations before requesting the DEA registration modification.
How You Can Lose Your DEA Registration
There are two ways in which your DEA registration can be removed.
When you retire, close your practice, or for any other reason choose not to handle controlled substances professionally, you can simply contact your local DEA office to terminate your registration. You send a letter notifying the DEA of your desire to terminate your registration along with your DEA Certificate of Registration and any unused Official Order Forms (DEA Form-222). Done!
The DEA takes violations of the CSA by professionals, such as veterinarians, very seriously. When you seek the privilege of having a DEA registration, you are committing to follow all relevant state and federal laws. If you have a record of noncompliance and violations, the DEA has the discretion and authority to act against you and your registration in several ways:
- Letter of Admonition – A written warning documenting your violations. You will have 30 days to respond with a plan of correction. Failure to respond or to implement the promised corrections can lead to civil fines of up to $14,500 per violation as well as additional sanctions.
- Memorandum of Agreement(or Memorandum of Understanding) – A contract between you and the DEA requiring specific actions you must take within a specific timeframe to be considered in compliance. Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement may result in more severe, restrictive sanctions.
- Request for Voluntary Surrender – If your violations are serious enough, the DEA may ask you to voluntarily surrender and terminate your registration. Be warned: a voluntary surrender does not necessarily stop other disciplinary or legal actions against you by the DEA or other entities.
- Order to Show Cause/Denial, Suspension or Revocation of Registration – Considered the most serious of actions against a registrant, you would be served an Order to Show Cause (OTSC) to revoke, suspend, or deny your registration if you:
- Materially falsified an application
- Were convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance or a List I chemical
- Had your state license or registration suspended, revoked, or denied
- Committed an act that would render your DEA registration inconsistent with the public interest
- Were excluded from participation in a Medicaid or Medicare program
Do I Need a DEA Registration?
There are two basic situations where you do not need to have your own, personal DEA registration at all:
- You are not handling controlled substances. Maybe retirement is on the horizon (or already here), the therapies you choose for your patients only require non-controlled substances, or you have some other reasons to avoid controlled substances altogether. Whatever your situation, if your practice does not need controlled substances, you do not need a DEA registration. (Sorry…you will still need a state veterinary license!).
- You work under another veterinarian who purchases all the controlled substances for the practice. For example, if Dr. Smith uses her DEA registration number to purchase the controlled substances for everyone to use, Dr. Jones can administer them to his own patients (with permission from Dr. Smith, of course, and proper recordkeeping). Be aware – if Dr. Jones wants to prescribe controlled substances, he will still need his own DEA registration.
The rules for getting and keeping your authority to use controlled substances for treating your patients are very clear – as are the penalties for abusing that privilege. Of course, every person’s situation is unique and different, so if you need help be sure to ask, whether from your attorney, the DEA, or a reputable compliance consultancy.
Insider Tips for DEA Registration Success
- Get your state licenses and certifications fully approved BEFORE applying for your DEA registration. Your DEA registration is tied to the existence of a legitimate state license. If you apply for a DEA registration without a state license, you will be rejected and your application fee forfeited.
- Read the liability questions carefully and answer them honestly. The DEA asks about any legal issues involving your handling of controlled substances (arrests, disciplinary actions, license surrenders, etc.). False answers – or failing to answer them if you have sanctions in your history – could be grounds for immediate revocation of existing DEA registrations.
- If you have criminal sanctions or disciplinary actions related to controlled substances in your background, consult with an attorney who is familiar with licensing issues before applying to be sure your past cases are adequately resolved. You should be prepared for the DEA to conduct a liability investigation before deciding whether or not to approve your application.
- If you have someone who completes your paperwork for you – read it over carefully before submitting it. They may fill out the forms but you are held responsible for what is submitted.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to renew. Online systems break down, schedules get busy, and many other glitches can delay your renewal. If you fail to renew in time, you will lose your existing DEA number and never get it back.
- Keep your registration information (e.gaddresses, telephone numbers, email) up to date via the DEA’s online registration website to avoid lost correspondence and hassles in contacting you for renewals or other official business.