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Practitioners & Controlled Substance Security

For medical practitioners working with controlled substances, security is critical for good patient care. Safe storage impacts employees, staff and patients alike.

Practitioners include a variety of medical professionals, like physicians, dentists, veterinarians, researchers and pharmacists. Practitioners also include certain environments, including hospitals, pharmacies, or other licensed locations of professional practice.

Federal regulations don’t specifically define the construction requirements for security cabinets for Schedule (C) substances in the categories III, IV and V. But the intent of the law is that controlled substances must be adequately safeguarded. Some factors considered when evaluating a practitioner’s controlled substance security include:

  • how many employees, customers or patients have access to the substances
  • the location
  • use of an effective alarm system
  • quantity of controlled substances kept on hand
  • prior history of theft or loss

The DEA will use these and other indicators to evaluate secure storage. Bottom line: controlled substances must be stored in a securely locked cabinet of substantial construction.

Remember – Schedule I and II Controlled Substances must be secured in a UL Rated Burglary Safe or GSA Approved Class V Security Container

The area where the substance is stored should only be accessible to a minimum of authorized employees. Should a non-authorized person pass through the area, like maintenance staff or a business guest, adequate written observation of the area must be made by an authorized employee.

To minimize the threat of theft, loss or diversion, practitioners need to provide not only physical security. It’s also important to implement procedures to keep unauthorized people out and provide an alarm system where necessary. These procedures include:

  • not employing an individual who has had his or her application for registration with the DEA denied or revoked at any time
  • notifying the nearest DEA Field Office upon discovery of loss or theft
  • storing blank prescription forms, as well as DEA order forms, in secure locations to minimize risk of theft

Whether you are an independent pharmacist or employee at a larger enterprise pharmacy chain; security matters for those in every stage of pharmaceutical operations. And with safe practices, practitioners can provide the best care for patients.


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