Emergency Medications Act to amend Controlled Substances Act

If the act is not passed, EMS providers could be prevented from accessing controlled substances to treat pain and seizures


WASHINGTON — Pending federal regulations threaten a longstanding practice that has allowed EMS personnel to administer controlled substances to patients who, for example, are in 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.

"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, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  "Emergency physicians appreciate the strong leadership of Rep. Hudson and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in resolving this issue."

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.

"NAEMSP strongly supports Rep. Hudson's legislation and applauds the Congressman's leadership on this vital legislation. The legislation ensures that life-saving EMS professionals are able to delivery emergency medication to the patients that so desperately need them," said NAEMSP President Jane H. Brice.

The legislation is supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Ambulance Association, Association of Air Medical Services, the Association of Critical Care Transport, International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, National Association of EMS Physicians, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the National Association of State EMS Officials.

"Without this very important legislation, the ability of EMS caregivers to provide patient’s with critical medications in that moment of need would be impaired," said Ron Thackery, chair of the American Ambulance Association professional standards committee. 

"This legislation is critical to protect the ability of prehospital providers to deliver critical medication to the patients they serve," said NAEMT President Conrad “Chuck” Kearns.

The organizations supporting this legislation represent more than 350,000 physicians, firefighters and emergency medical services 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." 

The ability for EMS 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 the International Association of Fire Fighters. "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."   

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