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New prescribing and reporting rules for controlled substances coming January 1, 2021

October 20, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Drug Prescribing/Dispensing 


On January 1, 2021, all security prescription forms will be required to have a uniquely serialized number, a corresponding barcode and other security features.

California-approved security printers have been issuing these prescription pads since the beginning of 2020. Starting January 1, 2021, except for limited emergency situations, pharmacists will be unable to fill a controlled substances prescription that is not on a compliant form.

Physicians who do not already have these prescription pads should place an order as soon as possible from a Department of Justice-approved security prescription printer to ensure they have compliant prescription pads before the Jan. 1, 2021 effective date. California Medical Association (CMA) security prescription partner, RxSecurity, is already issuing the uniquely serialized prescription forms and has been since 2019. 

Implementation of this new requirement was postponed for two years, thanks to CMA-sponsored legislative fix in January 2019. The flawed implementation in 2019 caused mass confusion, left pharmacies unable to fill prescriptions and patients being refused necessary medications.

January 1, 2021 also marks the implementation date of a new law that requires pharmacists and prescribers who dispense controlled substances to report the dispensing of controlled substances to the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) within one working day after the medication is released to the patient or the patient’s representative. Previously, pharmacists and prescribers who dispensed had seven days after dispensing. This law requires pharmacists and other prescribers who dispense to report the dispensing of Schedule V drugs, in addition to Schedules II, III, and IV.

For more information on CURES and prescription pad requirements, visit the Medical Board of California’s CURES web page.

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