Telehealth Providers Cheer DEA Move to Temporarily Extend Virtual Prescribing Flexibilities

From Fierce Healthcare

Facing major backlash to its proposed rules released in February, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is looking to buy some time to reconsider whether it should enforce stricter limits around the prescribing of controlled substances via telehealth.

The Biden administration said at the time that the new rule seeks to provide safeguards to prevent online over-prescribing of controlled medications. Teleprescribing has been touted as a robust tool for bringing medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs) to rural areas in the ongoing treatment of the opioid epidemic.

The agency received a record 38,000 comments on its proposed telemedicine rules, according to a statement from DEA Administrator Anne Milgram issued Wednesday.

“We take those comments seriously and are considering them carefully. 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,” Milgram said.

The DEA filed a draft temporary rule with the Office of Management and Budget titled “Temporary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications.”

Milgram said further details about the rule will become public after its full publication in the Federal Register.

The DEA issued proposed rules three months ago that would reinstate strict limitations on the virtual prescribing of controlled substances and would roll back telehealth flexibilities extended during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed rules would once again require patients to be evaluated in person by a doctor to receive prescriptions for some controlled substances (PDF) including stimulants like Adderall and opioids such as oxycodone and buprenorphine used to treat opioid use disorder.

Provider groups, telehealth advocates and patients submitted comments largely panning the proposal, arguing that it would create barriers to care.

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