Propofol and the DEA

We all know what happens when the drugs we use in practice become controlled substances. We’re faced with more paperwork and tighter Drug Enforcement Agency restrictions in terms of access, use and logging of our drug inventory, and how we dispose of them. 

The DEA is considering placing propofol on Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act. Considering how important propofol is in veterinary practice, the AVMA has concerns about what this might mean for veterinarians. At the same time, part of the AVMA’s mission is to improve human health, so we were also concerned when we saw the DEA’s alarming information about the dangers of propofol when it’s used inappropriately. More specifically, the DEA cited research showing that 28 percent of propofol abusers die from this abuse. 

That’s why we recently sent a letter to the DEA expressing our understanding of DEA’s scheduling of drugs with high-abuse potential, while also expressing our concerns that adding propofol as a Schedule IV controlled substance may result in a reluctance on the part of veterinarians to use this important induction agent. The burdens associated with registration, record keeping and, especially, waste disposal in accordance with DEA rules may, in fact, lead to decreased use of this important drug. 

In our letter, we stressed the importance of having in place a predefined process that would allow for the convenient disposal of any wasted propofol prior to scheduling it as a controlled substance, if that is to happen. As part of our request, we reiterated to the DEA that the veterinary profession is already committed to responsible drug disposal by pointing them to our Best Management Practices for Pharmaceutical Disposal. We’ll keep you posted as news on this issue develops.

10 thoughts on “Propofol and the DEA

  1. I definitely do not want propofol to become a controlled substance. I think scheduling this drug could hurt our patients and adversely affect their standard of care. Remember that propofol is supposed to be used the same day that it is opened because of the lack of preservatives. Keeping up with the waste would be another headache to deal with. The cost would increase and clients and veterinarians are having a hard enough time in this economy.

  2. @Sandra J. Corrie, DVM
    No, regulators do NOT have to “act” in response to the death of 1 very disturbed person, by making it more expensive (that’s what regulations do) to continue to use the same substance as safely as it has been used without a new regulatory burden. Our clients and patients suffer when regulations are imposed under the guise of improving safety for all. Does anyone seriously envision hooking up a dog to an unattended propofol drip with a bowl of propofol at his muzzle to imbribe as he wishes? Name 1 regulation that has actually prevented a crime (what happened to Michael Jackson was already criminal, without adding a new regulation). Making propofol a scheduled drug would not have prevented MJ’s death. Criminals break laws. Laws don’t stop criminal behavior. Punish the guilty and leave the rest of us alone.

  3. Enough government knee jerk intervention. We are all licensed practitioners and have been using the drug for many years. Will the regulation have unintended consequences? Higher cost to us for example?

  4. I have been logging Propoflo the same as my other controlled drugs for years. It is no more work than any other induction agents I use. It is not at all suprizing the DEA wants to make this move and veterinarians should be anticipating it. I hate to see any more regulations but when high profile people die from a drug they have to act somehow. They always seem to add more regulations rather than going after the abusers. Abusers will find ways no matter what the DEA does. We should be the least of their concerns compared to the overwhelming size of the drug abuse problem.

  5. In favor of regulation of drugs with high abuse potential and the delicate situation the DEA is in. That said considering scheduling propofol… Exactly what schedule are modeling cement and PAM??? Since their impact socially may be higher.

  6. Propofol is one of the most predictable, consistently reliable, practical anesthetic drugs I use in my veterinary practice. Regulatory agencies have plenty of dangerous, addictive drugs to track and monitor without adding drugs such as Propofol to the already lengthy list. If propofol should become a scheduled drug, I might have to reduce or discontinue its use because it is already costly to purchase and use. Cost and convenience are very important factors in veterinary practice. We are already drowning in paperwork and regulation in veterinary business. Please do not schedule this drug.

  7. For the 28% of the people that died from using propoflo, where did they get it from? The human side or the veterinary side? It is safe when used by trained personnel, but it looks like someone has to ruin it for the rest of us. Don’t we have enough paperwork to do?

  8. Dear President of the AVMA and other officers and Regional representatives:

    It is against everyone’s interests to allow the DEA to make Propofol a controlled substance. We in California already have enough trouble with the new “CURES” program that the stupid CVMA and the Pharmacy governing Board of CA have screwed us with. There would be no way to account for every drop of Propoflo used. Each injection leaves a little bit in the hub of the needle and we do not use all of it in many patients…using it to effect instead. We also do not use the entire bottle for one patient. We have different sized patients so we use different amounts of Propoflo for those patients we are giving it to. You already know all this if you are in practice and using this induction agent. Making it a controlled substance means the manufacturer will have to “drop ship” it to us. And there will be delays in shipping because we have to send them the DEA controlled substance ordering forms first which we have to mail not fax or email. I am really getting tired of all these government agencies trying to over-regulate our profession. I realize that not every veterinary clinic keeps as careful surgery logs as my clinic does but most of them do. The local Associations for each state should go to the rest to help them keep better records.

  9. Veterinarians will suffer under additional reporting burden. P:ropofol should not be scheduled.-lcm