1 1 (April 9, 2020)

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               Researh Sevice

COVID-19: The Drug Enforcement

Administration's Regulatory Role

April 9, 2020
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused strain on many health care and medical
facilities around the country, and some doctors and pharmacists have altered conventional practice to
accommodate the needs of patients during this public health emergency. Changed practices include
maintaining increased supplies of Schedule 11 controlled substances needed for intubation at hospitals and
increasing the use of telemedicine as an alternative to in-person patient visits with a provider. Such
changes require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to make exceptions to Controlled
Substances Act (CSA) regulatory requirements. DEA has made these arid other accommodations during
the COVID- 19 public health emergency.
This Insight focuses on DEA's regulatory role and how related polices have changed in response to the
COVID- 19 pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also plays a significant role in
regulating the nation's drug supply, but is only briefly mentioned here. See other CRS products for
discussion of FDA policies.

DEA's Regulatory Role

In addition to criminal enforcement, DEA is charged with enforcing noncriminal regulatory requirements
of the CSA. Those requirements provide the statutory framework through which the federal government
regulates the lawful production, possession, and distribution of controlled substances. Certain CSA laws
and regulations are associated with recent COVID- 19-related needs and changes. For a broader discussion
of the CSA, see CRS Report R45948, The Controlled Substances Act (CSA): A Legal Overview for the
116th Congress.

The CSA requires persons (such as drug manufacturers, wholesale distributors, physicians, pharmacists,
and scientific researchers) who handle controlled substances or listed chemicals to register with the DEA.
Among other CSA requirements, registrants must maintain detailed records of their controlled substance
inventories, establish adequate security controls to minimize theft and diversion, and issue prescriptions
according to requirements specific to schedule classification.

                                                                Congressional Research Service

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