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Checking DEA Numbers

In the U.S. Some healthcare practitioners are assigned DEA Numbers which authorize them to prescribe medications controlled by the US Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA).

Pharmacy Technicians must be familiar with the blueprint of the DEA # structure to do an initial check if a suspicious scenario takes place. However, with modern technology, the numbers are usually checked against the actual database before a prescription is filled.

Manually check a DEA number

For an example, let's first make up the fictitious Dr. Pam Nicholson. And, we'll say that she's a Neurophysiologist and give her the following:

 DEA Registrant ID number :

# F N 5 6 2 3 7 4 0

DEA number decoding

First, check the 2 letters

The first will usually be an A, B, or F . Sometimes an M.

The second will be the first letter of the  prescriber's last name.

In this case it's "N"

Next, check for the check digit.

DEA number decoding

This number checks out since the second digit in our total matched the last number in the DEA #. If it was anything but 0, it would not.

The most common mistake made checking a DEA # check digit is not adding the second series of numbers twice. Once you remember that, checking it will become quite easy and accurate.

Basically, all you can do is check the three things shown above:

  • The First Letter : Registrant type: A, B, F or M
  • The second Letter : Prescriber's last name initial
  • The last Number : Check digit matches added sums

For the purpose of taking the pharmacy tech national exam (i.e. PTCB or ExCPT), knowing how to do this initial check is advised. When you're working in the field, most likely the DEA # will run thru a cross-check in the database program.

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