On May 3, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced a temporary extension of COVID-19 telemedicine flexibilities for prescribing controlled substances. The agency noted the “importance of telemedicine in providing Americans with access to needed medications” while working to “find a way forward to give Americans that access with appropriate safeguards”. This announcement comes after the DEA received 38,000 comments, including comments from the AAMC, in response to the proposed rules, (Telemedicine for Prescribing Controlled Substance Proposed Rule and Telemedicine for Prescribing Buprenorphine Proposed Rule) published in the Federal Register on March 1. In its comments, the AAMC strongly opposed the proposals in the rules, stating that the requirements would reduce access to life saving treatment and would disproportionally affect groups that have been historically marginalized [refer to Washington Highlights, April 7].
Under the proposed rules, telehealth providers would no longer be able to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances (e.g., Adderall, oxycodone, Ritalin, Vicodin) or Schedule III-V narcotics (with the sole exception of buprenorphine) without an in-person evaluation. Telehealth providers would be able to prescribe a 30-day supply through telemedicine without the initial in-person visit for buprenorphine and nonnarcotic Schedule III-V (e.g., Ambien, Valium, Xanax, ketamine). For a patient to get refills beyond the initial 30-day supply, an in-person visit would be required [refer to Washington Highlights, March 3].
Prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the Ryan Haight Act required an in-person visit before prescribing a controlled substance, including buprenorphine. During the PHE, the DEA allowed providers to prescribe controlled substances using telehealth without satisfying the in-person visit requirement; the PHE is scheduled to end May 11. Details of the extension are expected to be published in the Federal Register in the near future.