National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers and veterinarians

The AVMA has worked to resolve concerns regarding 2007 guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers. Though the issue is still in the process of being resolved, veterinarians should not be barred from ordering a prescription at a pharmacy simply because they do not have a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number.

What is the issue?

In 2007, the DHHS implemented guidance on NPI numbers 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 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. In lieu of an NPI number, veterinarians have been requested by pharmacies to provide their DEA number, even in the case of prescriptions for non-controlled substances. However, the DEA maintains the use of DEA registration numbers be reserved solely for prescriptions for controlled substances. 

How is it being addressed?

In an effort to address this issue, the AVMA worked very closely with the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) to ensure pharmacy software will accept other identifiers for veterinary prescribers, mainly the veterinarian’s state license number. NCPDP and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores say that a veterinarian should inform a pharmacy that their state license number is what should be used. If a pharmacy refuses to fill a prescription from a veterinarian without the provision of a DEA or NPI number, the pharmacy’s corporate regional office is the best point of contact to resolve the issue. 

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, American Association of Veterinary State Boards and AVMA are working together to consider ways pharmacies can use an existing database to validate veterinarians’ license numbers.