Pharmacists’ responsibility in appropriate controlled substance dispensing

Target Audience:

Pharmacists in community-based practice.

Universal program number: 0401-0000-12-012-H03-P
Activity type: Knowledge-based


To provide pharmacists with tools and tips on fulfilling their role in appropriate controlled substance dispensing.


Oversight and authority of controlled substance prescribing and dispensing is conducted by a combination of federal and state law enforcement, regulatory agencies and payers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency with primary authority over regulation and oversight of controlled substances in the United States, places responsibility on both prescribers and pharmacists to ensure that prescriptions for controlled substances meet all legal requirements of a prescription and are appropriate for the condition prescribed. The pharmacist has both a professional and ethical responsibility to ensure appropriate dispensing and to reject invalid prescriptions. How should the pharmacist conduct the due diligence necessary for ensuring appropriate controlled substance prescriptions? Should the pharmacist simply assume that all opioid prescriptions are improper until proven otherwise? Certainly not; according to the DEA, the pharmacist must exercise “sound professional judgment” to determine the legitimacy of controlled substance prescriptions.3 This lesson will provide the pharmacist with guidance regarding the current state of federal controlled substance legislation and regulation; an overview of actions in states and by third-party payers and other healthcare professionals to curb inappropriate prescribing and dispensing; and tools available to help the pharmacist make a sound professional judgment and perform due diligence when dispensing controlled substance prescriptions.

Learning objectives:

Upon completion of this program, the pharmacist should be able to:

  1. Explain the Drug Enforcement Administration’s definition of the “corresponding responsibility” between prescribers and pharmacists to ensure that controlled substance medications are only dispensed to patients based on prescriptions written for a legitimate medical purpose and in the normal course of professional practice, including the pharmacist’s responsibility in conducting due diligence.
  2. Describe current initiatives by the DEA, Food and Drug Administration, Office of National Drug Control Policy and general state policies to curb misuse, abuse and diversion of controlled substances and their relationship to pharmacy practice.
    List current initiatives by third-party payers, the Medicare Part D program and state Medicaid programs to curb misuse, abuse and diversion of controlled substances.
  3. Understand practical approaches and actions that can be taken by the pharmacist and the pharmacy staff to reduce the likelihood of misuse, abuse and diversion of controlled substances.
  4. Develop a checklist for the pharmacy staff to use in conducting due diligence, including identifying prescribers and patients that may be involved in potentially inappropriate prescribing.  
  5. Discuss available resources to develop effective, comprehensive controlled substance dispensing protocols in pharmacies.
To obtain credit:

A minimum test score of 70% is needed to obtain credit. Submit your answers to the learning assessment questions online at Your statement of credit will be available through CPE Monitor located at To ensure transmission of credit hours to CPE Monitor, you must enter your correct e-PID number in your CE profile.

All customer service questions should be directed to (800) 933-9666. This lesson is free of charge.


Drug Store News is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) as a provider of continuing pharmacy education. This CPE Activity is approved for pharmacists and is worth 2.0 contact hours (0.2 CEUs). The activity is available for CE credit through December 3, 2015.

Course summary
Credit hours: 
  • 2.00 Pharmacist
Course opens: 
Course format: 
Written Lesson
Course expires: 

By Mary Jo Carden, RPh, JD, Director, Regulatory Affairs Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy

Author Disclosure:

Mary Jo Carden and the DSN editorial and continuing education staff do not have any actual or potential conflicts of interest in relation to this lesson.

This lesson is supported by an education grant from Anda.

Available Credit

  • 2.00 Pharmacist

Accreditation Period

Course opens: 
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