The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has implemented new guidance on National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers. In 2007, NPI numbers were put into place for health care providers who bill for Medicare services. Due to incorporation of “veterinarian” into the taxonomy in the NPI application form, and continued requests for these identifier numbers by individual pharmacies, it was believed that NPI numbers were a possible way to satisfy individual pharmacy requests for an identifier number from prescribing veterinarians. However, the new DHHS guidance says specifically that “NPI numbers are not eligible for veterinarians because they do not meet the regulatory definition of ‘health care provider’ as defined at 45 CFR 160.103.” For veterinarians who previously procured an NPI number, DHHS advises that NPI numbers can be deactivated. Although there are “Other Entity Identifier” numbers available to certain practitioners, AVMA staff are currently seeking additional clarification on exactly what national identifier numbers are in fact eligible for veterinarians to attain.
Note that veterinarians should not be barred from ordering a prescription at a pharmacy simply because they do not have an NPI number. In the meantime, check your state rules on prescribing (see previous post for web links to resources), and review DEA’s Practitioners Manual section on inappropriate use of DEA registration numbers which indicates DEA registration numbers should not be used for identification purposes. Stay tuned as we gain more information on identifier number options for veterinarians.