Medical Board of California Advises Licensees of New Prescribing and Reporting Rules for Controlled Substances Effective January 1, 2021

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By Jonathan Padua

On October 2, 2020, the Medical Board of California (MBC) issued a notice to its licensees reminding them about two new requirements, effective January 1, 2021, regarding prescribing and reporting on controlled substances.

With respect to prescribing, all pads used to write and fill prescriptions for controlled substances will be required to have a 12-character serial number, a corresponding bar code, and other security features such as watermarks, thermochromic ink features, and anti-tampering and anti-copying features.  This new requirement was imposed by AB 149 (Cooper) (Chapter 4, Statutes of 2019), which amended sections 11162.1 and 11164, and added section 11162.2 to the Health and Safety Code, and was signed by Governor Newsom on March 11, 2019.

Newly added section 11162.2 also prohibits pharmacists from filling a controlled substances written prescription that does not comply with the specified guidelines set forth in the bill after January 1, 2021, unless it is an emergency situation as defined by Health and Safety Code section 11167.

Since the beginning of 2020, the Department of Justice-approved security printers has been issuing prescription pads to prescribers and pharmacists. Additionally, the security printers themselves have an identifying number assigned to them for added security. The Board’s notice reminded licensees that by January 1, 2022, aside from a few exceptions, all prescriptions must be submitted electronically and not written on paper pursuant to AB 2789 (Wood) (Chapter 438, Statutes of 2018).

With respect to reporting requirements, AB 528 (Low) (Chapter 677, Statutes of 2019) becomes effective on January 1, 2021.  That bill amended section 209 of the Business and Professions Code, and amended, repealed, and added sections 11164.1, 11165, 11165.1, and 11165.4 of the Health and Safety Code to change the timeframe for dispensers to report dispensed prescriptions in the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) database from seven days to the following working day after the medication is released to the patient or the patient’s representative. According to the bill’s author, reducing the time a pharmacist has to report to CURES from seven days to one working day prevents “doctor shoppers” from visiting multiple prescribers over the course of a whole week to obtain multiple prescriptions.  [25:1 CRLR 52] MBC’s notice also reminds licensees that this new law also requires reporting the dispensing of Schedule V drugs, in addition to Schedules II, III, and IV, and applies to pharmacists and prescribers who dispense controlled substances.

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