What is a DEA License?
In order to prescribe controlled substances, a provider needs to have an active drug enforcement agency (DEA) license. The DEA regulates both the prescribing and distribution of controlled medications such as narcotics and sedatives. To prescribe these medications, a DEA license is required for physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants alike.
This is separate from a state medical license or controlled substance permit. Upon approval of a DEA license, the provider is assigned a DEA number. The DEA number is typically provided on the prescription of a controlled substance medication. The pharmacist filling the medication will use this number to verify that the prescriber is authorized to order controlled medications.
The DEA license needs to be renewed every three years and costs $888 per renewal (this has increased since 2020). Each time a locum tenens provider works in a different state, the DEA license needs to be updated to include the current practice site.
For instance, if a provider was previously working in Ohio but is now working in Colorado, they will be unable to prescribe controlled substances in Colorado until they change their DEA license to Colorado. The good news is that there are no fees associated with changing your DEA license to a different state. The process often takes 48 hours to update in an official capacity.
A DEA license may be confiscated if the prescriber is thought to be practicing negligently and/or due to malpractice. It may also be suspended if your state medical license has been revoked or denied; or if you are convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance.
Some providers choose not to carry a DEA license because they do not believe in prescribing opioids or sedative medications, and do not want the liability that comes with it. As a locum tenens provider, most sites want you to carry an active DEA license.