New Federal Guidance: NPI Numbers Not for Veterinarians

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.

9 thoughts on “New Federal Guidance: NPI Numbers Not for Veterinarians

  1. I continue to have constant difficulty prescribing medication in local pharmacies without having an NPI number. I have had numerous medications denied to my clients because the pharmacies will not accept the script without one. It disheartens me to see that there is nothing in place for veterinarians as of yet. I feel like this issue has grown worse in the past several months in my area. How active is the AVMA in resolving these issues?

    • I also had a prescription denied today due to lack of NPI and my unwillingness to use my DEA number as a form of identification for a non-controlled substance prescription.
      I’ve run into this before with some pharmacies. Some don’t care. Some use my license number.
      I’ve got a call in to my state pharmacy board, hoping for a call back tomorrow on what I’m supposed to do when pharmacists refuse to honor my prescription because of a lack of NPI or DEA number.

      • Sorry to hear about the continued requests for NPI numbers. You should not be barred from having a prescription filled just because you are following federal requirements which say veterinarians are not eligible. In fact, in its clarification, the federal government says: “Any entity that insists veterinarians obtain an NPI are attempting to require veterinarians to obtain NPIs fraudulently (i.e., because the NPI Application/Update Form and its Internet equivalent require that the NPI applicant indicate that he/she/it meets the regulatory definition of “health care provider” and a veterinarian does not).” (

        The AVMA continues to be active on this topic. In interactions with pharmacy groups, we consistently underscore the federal expectations that veterinarians cannot have NPI numbers. And when we received the clarification from the federal government last summer, we also shared it with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, who in turn kindly disseminated it to their members (the state boards of pharmacy). Since each individual state gives licensed veterinarians the authority to prescribe by way of the veterinarian’s state license, the state license number would be a more appropriate identification number for pharmacies to utilize, not NPI numbers (per the US Department of Health and Human Services) and not DEA registration numbers (per the DEA).

        When you encounter pharmacies asking for an NPI number, the idea to reach out to your state board of pharmacy could be a good way forward. Dr. JJ, if you would be willing to share what your state board of pharmacy advises, that could be helpful context. We currently have a complaint form for members to fill out when they encounter an unlawful pharmacy practice:, and perhaps this form could be revised to reflect requests for NPI numbers if that would be a good fit for this topic. Looking forward to your input, and again very sorry to hear about these situations.

  2. Hi all, we are developing a social network web site for vets, pets and their owners, and are trying to find some unique identifier number (such as the NPI) for all veterinary doctors. Is there any such identifier in existence, nationwide? I understand from the above that the NPI should not be used, at least not at present. Thanks for your comments!

    • Dear Dr. Mitrev,

      Thank you for your comments. The DHHS has not identified any nationwide unique identifier number that veterinarians are eligible to use, thus far. We will continue to provide additional information about this topic as we hear more from the federal government.

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  4. Dr. White-Shim,
    Thank you for staying on top of this. I have emailed a link to this information to the APhA, GPhA, Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency, NABP, GVMA, my local pharmacy association Listserv and posted the information on VIN. Everyone involved needs to be aware of this clarification – which means that every stake holder should bombard every other stake holder with the facts.

    • Dr. Kemp,
      Thank YOU for bringing this question and concern to our attention. I appreciate all of your time and efforts, including sharing this new DHHS guidance with other veterinarians. Looking forward to receiving additional guidance from DHHS on whether there are other identifier numbers eligible for veterinary use.

    • Glad to see this update, ran into this problem just today. A large national chain pharmacy REFUSED to fill a prescription for terbutaline without an NPI number. I will be contacting my state pharmacy board with this information.
      Vanessa Davis DVM