Top 6 Things to Know About DSCSA

The DSCSA was passed in 2013, to be phased in over 10 years, and is intended to strengthen the US supply chain by preventing counterfeit and 'gray market' medications from being introduced.

In order to do that, DSCSA requires 'trading partners' to have a verification system in place for medications to be tracked from the moment they are manufactured to the moment they are received at the dispensing site (in our case, the community pharmacy).

If you don't have your verification system policies and procedures, you need them. Last year the FDA issued its first fine for violations of DSCSA to McKesson, and it totaled $150 million.

Don't leave your pharmacy open to this risk. Check out the PharmCompliance P and P for download here. It offers a complete DSCSA template to get you up and running fast!

OK, enough said about that. Here are my top things to know about DSCSA in the community pharmacy:

#1: How to get the drug pedigrees from your distributor

Do you know where to go on your distributor's website to print the drug pedigrees?

DSCSA requires that medications are tracked through the use of a 'drug pedigree,' which essentially is documentation to pass ownership of the drugs over from one company to the next. For the big distributors, these papers can be downloaded off their website in .pdf format. There's no need really to print them off with every order (DSCSA allows them to be stored electronically), but you should know how to get them in case you are asked for them.

The most common reason is the rare case a pharmacy needs to supply a drug pedigree to another trading partner (see #2), but actually the FDA has legal authority to request them too.

Once you are asked for the drug pedigree, you have 2 business days to cough it up, so be prepared!

#2: When the pharmacy has to supply a drug pedigree to other companies - and when it doesn't

With my pharmacy being located inside a hospital, we of course help quite a few physician offices out by selling them medications from time to time. Up until recently, we would fill out a drug pedigree for all those transactions, until one day when I was writing our national guidelines on inventory management I saw that DSCSA had a looong list of exemptions to the law, which included everything we have been doing. Daanng! We spent hours filling out papers that weren't required.

Don't make that mistake. Take a look at this list of exemptions before doing drug pedigrees:

  • Intracompany distributions

  • Distribution among hospitals under common control

  • Public health emergencies

  • Dispensed pursuant to a prescription

  • Product sample distribution

  • Blood and blood components for transfusion

  • Minimal quantities by a licensed pharmacy to a licensed practitioner

  • Certain activities by charitable organizations

  • Distributions pursuant to a merger or sale

  • Certain combination products

  • Certain medical kits

  • Certain IV products

  • Medical gas distribution

  • Approved animal drugs

The three I bolded are ones that pharmacies do on a regular basis (OK we dispense based on a prescription all the time, but that one is obvious).

What would the FDA define as "minimal quantities"? The law doesn't clearly define 'minimal,' but I think a good rule of thumb is whether or not the FDA and/or the Board of Pharmacy would classify you as a wholesale distributor based on what you're doing. That threshold, according to Federal law, is 5%; many states are stricter.

If you have a wholesaler license, it's probably best to do the drug pedigree since you are basically acting as a distributor in that case and not a 'licensed pharmacy,' as the exemption states. In addition, be sure you fully understand the additional compliance requirements of distributors, including annual reporting under the DSCSA, ARCOS, etc.

#3: The requirements of those drug pedigrees

If you are going to need to fill out drug pedigrees, and your system can't do it electronically, you need a standardized form that complies with the law.

I've got one you can check out here.

What exactly is the law? Here's an infographic to help you with that information:

#4: How to know if you received a suspect or illegitimate product

While there are legal definitions of 'suspect' and 'illegitimate,' both mean the drug is unfit for sale, counterfeit, adulterated, diverted, etc. Basically drugs you shouldn't dispense.

Here are the signs of suspect and/or illegitimate products, quoted directly from the FDA's guidance:

1. Be alert for offers of product for sale at a very low price or one that is “too good to be true.”

2. Closely examine the package and the transport container (such as the case or tote)

• To look for signs that it has been compromised (e.g., opened, broken seal, damaged, repaired, or altered).

• To see if it has changed since it was last received for an unexplained reason (e.g., a notification about the change from the manufacturer has not been received).