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Doctors get reprieve for telehealth prescribing of controlled substances

Article

Ability to write prescription without in-person visit extended to November

Buprenorphine bottle ©Simone-stock.adobe.com

©Simone-stock.adobe.com

Doctors who’ve been prescribing some controlled substances via telehealth without seeing the patient in person can continue doing so for a while longer.

The policy allowing the practice, adopted in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) was was due to end when the PHE itself expires on May 11. But a temporary rule issued jointly today by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration extends the policy for six more months, until November 11, 2023.

The rule also states that if a patient and practitioner have established a telemedicine relationship on or before November 11, 2023, the practitioner can continue prescribing controlled medications without an in-person visit until November 11, 2024.

At the beginning of March, the DEA announced it was proposing two rules for telehealth prescribing after the PHE’s expiration. One of the rules would require patients to see a provider in person within 30 days of receiving a telehealth prescription for buprenorphine, a medication often used to help wean patients from opioid addiction. Over the next month the agency received more than 38,000 public comments, including many from addiction experts warning that the rules would make it more difficult for patients to recover from opioid-use disorder.

“We take those comments seriously and are considering them carefully,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. “We recognize the importance of telemedicine in providing Americans with access to needed medications, and we have decided to extend the current flexibilities while we work to find a way forward to give Americans that access with appropriate safeguards.”

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