Controlled Substances CME for doctors in North Carolina — 5 facts you need to know

Practicing physician in North Carolina? Find out how to satisfy this new state requirement while you care for patients on your next shift.

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As of July 1, 2017, all physicians that prescribe controlled substances (CS) in North Carolina will need to satisfy the new NCMB CS CME requirement.

As physicians treating acute and chronic pain, we’re on the front lines of the national opioid crisis. It’s no surprise that part of the North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB) response to this crisis includes mandatory controlled substance CME for physicians that prescribe controlled substances. If you haven’t heard about this requirement, you’re not alone. The requirement went into effect July 1, 2017, so physicians in North Carolina are just now getting used to what this means for reporting their CME. Here are the five essential facts you need to know about this new requirement for doctors in North Carolina.

1. What’s the new CME requirement for doctors?

As a physician, you’ll need 3 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ every 3 years related to controlled substances. This comes out to one credit per year.

2. When is my controlled substance CME due to the North Carolina Medical Board?

As a physician, your CME is due every 3 years, starting with the first birthday following your initial licensure.

3. How do I submit my controlled substance CME to the NCMB?

You don’t. Check out your annual license renewal questionnaire from the NCMB. If you prescribe controlled substances, you’ll need to attest that you’ve finished your controlled substance CME.

However — and this is important — the NCMB encourages you to keep your certificates on file. They’re allowed to audit you at any time, where they’ll ask you to submit all of your certificates.

4. What qualifies as controlled substance CME?

Use AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, the type of credit you should be using for all of your CME anyway.

To qualify for controlled substance CME, make sure your activity covers these topics:

1. Controlled substance prescribing practices

2. Recognizing signs of the abuse or misuse of controlled substances

3. Controlled substance prescribing for chronic pain management

There’s no other specific requirement on what’s allowed for controlled substance CME.

5. How do I leverage Orbit to efficiently earn and track controlled substance CME?

There are a variety of free online CME opportunities listed by the NCMB here. Be sure to store your certificates for possible audits later, and set a reminder on your calendar to complete more CME when your new cycle comes up.

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Earn all of your CME including CS CME with Orbit’s groundbreaking plugin, designed to convert the learning you’re already doing on shift into automatically-documented NCCPA-accepted Category 1 Credit.

If you’re looking for a more streamlined experience that keeps your certificates ready for audit reports, Orbit’s extension for Google Chrome (also available on the App Store) lets you earn and track unlimited Category 1 CME for the web browsing that you’re already doing on shift. This means that you’ll get 0.5 credit hours for each article you reference on shift without taking personal time to finish this requirement.

Since Orbit automatically analyzes your browsing activity to detect eligible peer-reviewed sites, you’ll earn both your controlled substance credits and the rest of your Category 1 CME in the process. It’s also super easy to generate an audit report in Orbit — with one click you’ve answered any audit request — either from the NCMB or the national boards.

To earn controlled substance CME on Orbit, sign up for any plan in Orbit. Once you’re logged in, use PubMed to search for peer-reviewed articles that cover the three required CS topics (prescribing practices, recognizing abuse, chronic pain management). Orbit’s plugins will automatically track your searches and award 0.5 credits per reference.

For example, here are some opioid-related articles that Orbit’s providers in North Carolina are finding useful for the CS requirement:

Opioid Prescribing for Opioid-Naive Patients in Emergency Departments and Other Settings. Topics: Prescribing practices. [Fulltext]

Physician Guide to Appropriate Opioid Prescribing for Noncancer Pain. Topics: Prescribing practices, recognizing abuse, treating chronic pain. [Fulltext]

Predictors of Sustained Prescription Opioid Use After Admission for Trauma in Adolescents. Topics: Recognizing and predicting abuse. [Fulltext]

Each article that you reference related to CS earns 0.5 Category 1 controlled substance credits through Orbit. You’ll only need to reference two articles through Orbit per year to stay up to date, so choose articles that are relevant, meaningful, and updated.

When you redeem your credits for these articles on your Orbit Feed, select the Controlled Substance tag, to let Orbit know you want these articles to count for your CS requirement. You’ll be able to print your CS certificate and a complete audit report instantly from the Dashboard.

Bottom Line

The NCMB’s new controlled substance requirement is a checkbox with the possibility of an audit, but it’s also a rallying cry for all providers to stay current in the ways we approach opioid addiction. Let’s take this requirement seriously and review the most current peer-reviewed articles in opioid management. Our patients and their families are counting on us to make a difference.

Note for ABIM diplomates: Orbit’s AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM is not yet eligible for ABIM MOC points, mainly due to bureaucracy. However, you can still use Orbit for your state CME requirements including controlled substances.


21 NCAC 32R .0101 CME requirements for physicians, including the new controlled substance requirement.

Orbit is the most seamless way for doctors in North Carolina and beyond to earn, track, and report controlled substance and other Category 1 CME while focusing intensely on patient care. Get started with your controlled substance CME today. Register now for Orbit at

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Orbit is the easiest way for doctors to earn, track and submit all of their NCMB-required Category 1 CME.

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Orbit’s mission is to invest in the wellness of medical professionals.

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