Pending federal regulations threaten a longstanding practice that has allowed emergency medical services (EMS) personnel to administer controlled substances to patients who, for example, are suffering with severe pain or experiencing seizures. This practice will soon be prohibited unless the nation’s Controlled Substances Act is amended accordingly.
The “Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2015” (H.R. 4365), sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), will allow EMS agencies to continue using standing orders from their medical director to administer approved medications to their patients under the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The legislation is strongly supported by ACEP and several other organizations representing EMS: the American Ambulance Association; Association of Air Medical Services; Association of Critical Care Transport; International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC); International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF); National Association of EMS Physicians; National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians; and the National Association of State EMS Officials.
“The proposed legislation will codify current practices into statute so that EMS practitioners, and most importantly patients, do not see any disruption in the provision of this critical and lifesaving care,” said Jay Kaplan, MD, FACEP, President of ACEP. “Emergency physicians appreciate the strong leadership of Rep. Hudson and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in resolving this issue.”
The organizations supporting this legislation represent more than 350,000 physicians, firefighters, and EMS personnel.
“The IAFC thanks Representative Hudson for his work to ensure EMS personnel can continue providing the pre-hospital emergency patient care that may be needed,” said Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, president of the IAFC. “This legislation would simplify the registration process for thousands of fire and EMS agencies across the United States while cutting red tape that could jeopardize effective patient care.”
EMS provides critical care for patients while transporting them to hospitals. The ability to use controlled substances to administer medical care and medicines is essential to saving lives, managing pain, and improving health outcomes.
“Citizens rely on emergency medical personnel to act on their behalf in times of crisis,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of IAFF. “In an emergency, there is no time to waste. The Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act will help protect the ability of first responders to treat patients with appropriate and necessary medications.”
Specifically the proposed legislation would amend the Controlled Substances Act (21 USC 821 et seq) to:
- Permit EMS agencies to directly register with the DEA (rather than through their medical director)
- Allow a single registration for an EMS agency (rather than for each location)
- Ensure that an EMS agency has at least one physician medical director
- Allow the medical director to use standing orders for EMS personnel for the delivery or administration of a controlled substance (Schedule II–V)
- Update receipt, movement, and storage rules for EMS agency controlled substances