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  • Washington Highlights

    DEA and SAMHSA Temporarily Extend COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities


    Ki Stewart, Senior Policy and Regulatory Analyst
    For Media Inquiries

    On May 9, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), jointly with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), published the Temporary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications in the Federal Register.  The rule extends all telemedicine COVID-19 public health emergency flexibilities for prescribing controlled substances until Nov. 11. For practitioner-patient relationships established on or before that date, telemedicine COVID-19 flexibilities for prescribing controlled substances will be further extended for one year until Nov. 11, 2024. These flexibilities will not be extended to those who establish a new practitioner-patient relationship after Nov. 11.

    This temporary extension of COVID-19 flexibilities for prescribing controlled substances was issued in response to the over 38,000 comments, including comments from the AAMC, the DEA received on the proposed rules, Telemedicine for Prescribing Controlled Substance Proposed Rule and Telemedicine for Prescribing Buprenorphine Proposed Rule[refer to Washington Highlights, May 5]. The DEA and SAMHSA agreed with commenters that abruptly ending the flexibilities when the public health emergency ends would jeopardize patient access and  continuity care.

    “Ultimately, DEA and SAMHSA anticipate implementing a final set of regulations permitting the practice of telemedicine under circumstances that are consistent with public health and safety, while maintaining effective controls against diversion,” stated the most recent rule. The agencies also noted that they look forward to working with “telemedicine companies [who] are engaged in good faith, patient-centered prescribing practices … to further enhance patient access to needed medications when telemedicine prescriptions are appropriate.”