- The Drug Enforcement Agency said last week it is “open to considering” a special registration that would allow physicians to prescribe some controlled substances through telemedicine without an in-person evaluation after receiving negative feedback earlier this year on proposed rules that would have restricted the practice.
- The proposals, announced in March, would limit telemedicine prescriptions for some controlled substances to a 30-day supply, after which a provider would have to evaluate a patient in person to continue the prescription. The agency said it received more than 38,000 public comments in response, with “a significant majority” expressing concern about the proposed rules.
- The DEA will host listening sessions on Sept. 12 and 13 to discuss permitting telehealth prescribing without in-person evaluations.
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the DEA stopped enforcing the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 — a law that requires providers to have previously conducted an in-person evaluation to virtually prescribe controlled substances — to avoid lapses in care.
The COVID flexibilities were set to expire at the end of the public health emergency, but the DEA temporarily extended them in May after receiving tens of thousands of public comments on its stricter proposed rules.
“DEA is open to considering — for some controlled substances — implementation of a separate Special Registration for telemedicine prescribing for patients without requiring the patient to ever have had an in-person medical evaluation at all,” the agency wrote in a meeting notice.
Telehealth prescribing could be a boon in combating the opioid epidemic, which worsened at the height of COVID. The availability of opioid use disorder-related telehealth services and medications has been linked with a lower likelihood of drug overdose deaths among Medicare beneficiaries.
Prescriptions for other medications like stimulants, usually for treating ADHD, increased between 2016 and 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While easier access to stimulants may be beneficial for some patients, the agency flagged concerns about adverse effects like misuse, overdose or interactions with other medications.