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Voluntary Surrender of DEA Registration: Proceed With Caution

All too often, the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) asks a physician to surrender his or her DEA registration when the physician enters into a prescribing-related Agreed Order with the applicable state licensing authority. A DEA registration is important because, in order to write prescriptions for controlled substances or dispense controlled substances in-office, physicians must be registered with the DEA.

DEA may suspend or revoke a DEA registration if (among other things):

(1)    The registrant’s State license is suspended, revoked or denied and the registrant is no longer authorized by State law to dispense controlled substances;

(2)    A State authority recommends that the registrant’s license be revoked; or,

(3)    The registrant commits acts that make his or her DEA registration inconsistent with the public interest.

Voluntary surrender of a DEA registration in connection with a prescribing-related Agreed Order should not be automatic. Before a physician voluntarily surrenders his or her DEA registration, the physician should consider whether the physician’s authorization to prescribe has been suspended or revoked under state law, or merely limited by voluntary agreement with the licensing board. An Agreed Order may represent a temporary arrangement that involves education and review, but results in the physician’s prescribing privileges being restored to the full scope authorized under the physician’s license. If a physician automatically surrenders a DEA registration in connection with an Agreed Order, the physician will remain ineligible to dispense controlled substances after the Agreed Order’s restrictions are lifted.

If a physician refuses a request to surrender his or her DEA registration, the physician may be summoned to “show cause” before the Attorney General as to why the DEA registration should not be suspended or revoked. Such a hearing will examine whether the registration continues to be eligible for DEA registration and whether continued registration is inconsistent with the public interest.

In short, DEA registration is an important component of physician practice. A DEA registration, once surrendered, can be difficult to obtain. Surrender of a DEA registration should not be automatic in connection with a state licensure board review or agreed-upon restriction on a physician’s prescribing privileges. If you are being asked to surrender your DEA registration, consider your options carefully, and consult your trusted legal advisor before making a decision.

This article is intended as a summary of federal or state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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