Your DEA Number: Is it Safe?

As an epidemic of controlled substance abuse continues to sweep the nation, numerous healthcare providers have been impacted by theft of their United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number. A recent survey revealed that approximately 10% of prescribers reported having their DEA number stolen or compromised. In addition, 29% of the prescribers know a colleague who has fallen prey to DEA number fraud.¹

Unscrupulous individuals can abuse a practitioner’s DEA number to gain access to prescription drugs. Once stolen, a physician’s ID can amass hundreds of bogus prescriptions before anyone is the wiser. These fraudulent activities directly contribute to prescription drug abuse. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that overdose deaths from opioids increased to 75,673 in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, up from 56,064 the year before. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in the 12-month period ending in April 2021.²

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Experiencing an internal or external theft of a practitioner’s DEA number can elicit all types of emotions, from anger, to fear, to betrayal. It is hard to imagine how you can find the time or resources to deal with DEA or identity theft issues, when you must manage your practice, see patients, or perform surgery.³

When a prescriber’s DEA number is stolen or compromised, several things can occur. First, the prescriber may not be able to prescribe any prescriptions for several weeks, or possibly months, while the DEA processes a new DEA number. Second, the state Board of Physicians or Board of Registered Nursing (for Advanced Practice Nurses) may conduct a comprehensive investigation into the incident. This procedure can take a significant amount of time and can be an arduous process.4

The process of investigating DEA number breaches places unnecessary pressure on medical practices and institutions, particularly if multiple practitioners’ DEA numbers are compromised. These breaches can halt all prescriptions at a medical practice or institution, and result in huge costs for processing fees, investigation processes, labor hours, and lost productivity.5

Risk Mitigation Strategies:

How to Report a Theft or Significant Loss of Your DEA number or Controlled Substances:

1. Call the police immediately to report the theft or loss. Be sure to have as much detailed information as you can for the police officer and the DEA. This includes date, time, location, types and amounts of controlled substances lost or missing; witnesses; identification of suspect(s), etc.

2. Call your local DEA field division office within one business day to report your theft or loss. This is required by federal regulations.6

3.  You, the registrant, must also complete and submit DEA form 106 regarding the theft or loss to the local field division office in your area. Thefts and significant losses must be reported whether the controlled substances are subsequently recovered, or the responsible parties are identified, and action taken against them. The form is available at https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr_reports/theft/

4.  Check your credit report for unusual behavior under your name. If your DEA number has been compromised, your personal data, such as your name and address, may have been used for fraudulent activity. Your ability to open a line of credit can also be affected.7

Please call the CAP Hotline at 800-252-0555 for expert guidance from an experienced Senior Risk Management and Patient Safety Specialist.    

Melvin Barnes is a Senior Risk Management and Patient Safety Specialist for CAP. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to MBarnes@CAPphysicians.com.

References:

¹Protect against DEA number theft with Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances. Imprivata, 2017. Available at: https://www.imprivata.com/sites/imprivata/files/resource-files/CID-DS-DEAtheft-0318.pdf

²Centers for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics Press Release 2021. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/20211117.htm

³Someone has stolen my controlled substances. Jan Woods, Cubex, 2019 Available at: https://cubex.com/someone-has-stolen-my-controlled-substances-now-what/

⁴Protect Against DEA Number Theft with Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances, Health Outcomes, Source, Imprivata, 2022. Available at: https://www.healthitoutcomes.com/doc/protect-against-dea-number-theft-with-electronic-prescribing-of-controlled-substances-0001

⁵Imprivata 2017.

⁶Woods, Jan. Cubex.

⁷Woods, Jan. Cubex.

DEA Resources:

United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division, 2022. Available at: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr_reports/theft/

DEA form 106  
https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr_reports/theft/DEA_Form_106.pdf

Theft/loss reporting instructions  
https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr_reports/theft/
https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/TLR/

DEA Contact Information
https://www.dea.gov/who-we-are/contact-us