By FlexMedStaff

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As a physician, you may consider the pros and cons of obtaining multiple Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) licenses. Beyond the cost of having multiple DEA licenses, there are benefits to having multiple DEA licenses, such as providing more flexibility with scheduling and staffing. This article provides an overview of who needs a DEA license and things physicians should be aware of if they are interested in having multiple DEA licenses.

***This article does not discuss how physician-run drug dispensaries must comply with the DEA.

Who requires a DEA license?

Anyone that prescribes controlled substances such as opioids and sedatives. This includes physicians, dentists, podiatrists, veterinarians, and other prescribers.

Do all physicians require a DEA license?

Technically, NO. A physician only needs a DEA license if they prescribe controlled substances such as opioids and sedatives. On the other hand, having a DEA license makes it easier for physicians to obtain employment, contract with insurance companies, and work with drugstores.

How many DEA licenses are required?

Prescribers must have a DEA license in each state they prescribe, and most physicians will only require one DEA license to cover them in a single state. Those prescribers that have drug dispensers may require additional licenses within one state.  

What is needed to apply for a DEA license?

You must have an active medical license in the state in which you are applying for a DEA license.

Do you need a DEA license in each state you have a state medical license?

No, you only require a DEA license in the states where you prescribe controlled substances. For example, you could have five state medical licenses but only need one DEA license if you only prescribe in one of those five states.

Which physicians should consider having multiple DEA licenses?

The DEA requires physicians to have a DEA license in each state where the physicians are actively prescribing controlled substances.

1.    Independent physicians or locums physicians that work in multiple states.

2.    Physicians that practice along state borders.

3.    Telemedicine physicians that prescribe across state lines.

4.    Physicians that have patients who live in different states.

5.    Physicians that operate multiple dispensing clinics (not applicable to this article).

    How long does it take to register for a new DEA license?

    Registering for a new DEA license generally takes less than 30 minutes. You can start the process HERE.

    How long it takes to get a new DEA license?

    It depends on where you are getting a DEA license, but most states can get a new DEA license within two months.

    What are the fees associated with obtaining a new DEA license?

    No matter which state you get a DEA license, it will cost $888.

    How often do you have to renew your DEA license?

    Every three years, your DEA license must be renewed. The current cost for renewal is $888, but this could increase over time. 

    Must you complete CMEs to register for and renew a DEA license?

    Yes, each physician registering for a new DEA license or renewing it must complete three hours of CME on opioid prescribing and addiction medicine. A few states will require additional CMEs on the topic of prescribing at the time when physicians renew their state medical licenses.

    What address do you use when applying for a new DEA license?

    The DEA requires that a physical address is used when applying for a new DEA license. It must be the principal address of the business. In most cases, it cannot be a PO Box. If your home address is considered your principal address of the business, then you can apply with that address, but be aware that your address will be accessible to the general public.

    How long does it take to transfer a DEA license from one state to another?

    It depends on the state where you are transferring to, but most states can update your DEA license in less than three weeks.

    What does it take to transfer your DEA license to another state?

    The process is simple and takes only a few minutes. To transfer your DEA license to another state, you can update your license by starting the process HERE with the principal business address in the state you are transferring to.

    What are the fees for updating or transferring your DEA license to another state?

    This process is FREE.

    What states require physicians to have a “Controlled Substance License” and a DEA license?

    Many states require physicians to have a DEA license and a “controlled substance license.” There are fees associated with getting a controlled substance license. Please review each state’s requirements and if you need a controlled substance license even if you are not prescribing opioids and sedatives. You can find the list of states that require a Controlled Substance License in addition to a DEA license HERE.

    What are the advantages of having multiple DEA licenses?

    1. Flexibility. Multiple DEA licenses allow you to work and prescribe in multiple states without delay. Rather than waiting for your DEA license to be transferred to another state, you can continue to prescribe actively in multiple states.
    2. Expand your practice. Multiple DEA licenses will allow you to treat patients at medical facilities in multiple states. You will also be able to call in prescriptions for patients that come from multiple states.
    3. Be ready for your next opportunity. If you have multiple state medical licenses and are open to finding new opportunities (i.e., full-time, part-time, locums, per diem), then consider getting a second DEA license to avoid any delay in getting started. 
    4. Reach more patients thru telemedicine. If you intend to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine to patients in multiple states, then consider multiple DEA licenses in the states in which you see telemedicine patients.

    When is it better to have multiple DEA licenses rather than transferring your DEA license from one state to another?

    If you intend to work and regularly prescribe in multiple states, consider having multiple DEA licenses. Relying on the states to quickly transfer your DEA to another state is not a reliable strategy, as the states cannot predict how long it will take to complete the transfer. To be safe, you would need about three weeks of downtime from prescribing to get your DEA transferred to another state. If you routinely cover two medical facilities in two separate states and don’t have three weeks to wait, get a second DEA license.  

    What are the downsides to having multiple state licenses?

    The fees. Each DEA license costs $888 every three years. Having multiple DEA licenses usually does not mean you must do additional CMEs unless the state requires it. Additional fees will be seen in those states that require you to have a controlled substance license and a DEA license.  

    Final thoughts

    Whether or not obtaining multiple DEA licenses is worth it for physicians depends mainly on their individual situations and goals for their practice. For those looking for greater flexibility or to readily treat patients in multiple states and willing to pay the associated fees, having multiple DEA licenses may be worth it. On the other hand, if you treat patients primarily in one state, then a single DEA license may be sufficient. Ultimately, only you can decide what’s best for your individual circumstance as a practicing physician when it comes to getting multiple DEA licenses.

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