Emergency Meds Act Would Fix Gap in EMS Law that Could Harm Patients

Jan 13, 2016, 12:58 ET from American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pending federal regulations threaten a longstanding practice that has allowed Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel to administer controlled substances to patients who, for example, are suffering with 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 (DEA).

The legislation is strongly supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and five other national organizations representing Emergency Medical Services (EMS):  the American Ambulance Association, Association of Air Medical Services, the Association of Critical Care Transport, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Association of EMS Physicians, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the National Association of State EMS Officials.

"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, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP.  "Emergency physicians appreciate the strong leadership of Rep. Hudson and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in resolving this issue."

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." 

EMS provides critical care for patients while transporting them to hospitals. The ability 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."   

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); and
  • Update receipt, movement and storage rules for EMS agency controlled substances.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. 

The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. 

The International Association of Fire Fighters represents more than 300,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel throughout the United States and Canada. 

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SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)



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