DEA Numbers: What Do They Mean?

Pharmacy TechnicianNo Comments

As you may recall from the Pharmacy Law, Regulations, and Standards module, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was created to combat and control drug abuse. This act also classified drugs with potential for abuse as controlled substances and ranked them into the five categories, or schedules, which you have already learned, or will soon learn. The agency made primarily responsible for the enforcement and prevention related to the abuse of these substances was the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

One way the DEA tracks controlled substances is to assign a DEA number to every healthcare provider that allows them to write controlled prescriptions. The DEA number is also used to identify the prescriber. Every DEA number is made up of two letters, six numbers, and one check digit. The first letter is a code to identify the type of prescriber (i.e., a hospital, a practitioner, a manufacturer, etc.). The second letter is the first letter of the prescriber’s last name. The seven numbers follow, and the seventh is the check digit.  Let’s walk though the steps of how to verify the DEA number.

Dr. Patterson sends in a prescription with DEA number CP2756344.

Step 1:  Add digits 1, 3 and 5 = 10
Step 2:  Add digits 2, 4 and 6 = 17 x 2 = 34
Step 3:  Add the results for step 1 and 2 = 44.  The last digit of this sum should be the same as the last digit of the DEA number. 

This DEA number is valid.  Let’s try another one. 

Dr. Smith sends in a prescription with DEA number CC8422965.

Step 1:  Add digits 1, 3 and 5 = 19
Step 2: Add digits 2, 4 and 6 = 12 x 2 = 24
Step 3: Add the results for step 1 and 2 = 43.  The last digit of this sum should be the same as the last digit of the DEA number. 

Because the last digit is 3, and because the second letter is a “C,” this would not be a valid DEA number.

With advancing technology, most likely a computer will verify the DEA number for you when you’re working in the pharmacy.  However, it’s important to know the basics of how the numbers work because you will have similar questions on the final exam and the PTCE.


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  1. Bertha Mighty January 29, 2016

    Very good but I need more practice and explanation on the basics of DEA adding numbers.


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