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DEA Considers Next Steps for Virtual Prescribing Rules

August 08, 2023

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is planning two listening sessions next month as it considers telehealth’s role for the prescription of certain medications and treatments.

On September 12 and 13, the DEA will hear from patients, providers, and other behavioral health professionals about the role of virtual prescriptions and when in-person medical evaluation is needed. Following public feedback, the DEA has signaled it’s open to a separate special registration for certain controlled substances.

“DEA recognizes the importance of telemedicine in providing Americans with access to needed medications, and DEA has been, and remains, committed to expanding access to telemedicine in a way that puts patients—and their safety—first, is simple to understand and apply, reflects technological advancements, and is consistent with lessons learned during the COVID-19 PHE and the ongoing opioid epidemic,” the agency said last week.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Background:  Earlier this year, the DEA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) about the prescription of certain controlled medications via telehealth without an in-person medical evaluation.
    • The pandemic fueled growth in telehealth, as the federal government provided flexibilities that ensured safe access to care.  
    • On May 9, DEA and HHS announced the extension of COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities for an additional six months while considering the more than 38,000 comments it received on the NPRMs.
  • What’s changed?:  Following the public comments, the federal agency now says it is open to considering—for some controlled substances—a separate special registration for telehealth prescribing for patients without requiring the patient to ever have had an in-person medical evaluation.
  • Points to consider:  HAP, the American Hospital Association, and other behavioral health leaders have raised concerns about the DEA’s notice of proposed rulemaking, saying it could hurt access to buprenorphine and make it harder for patients to begin lifesaving treatment for opioid use disorder.
  • Big questions:  Stakeholders will be asked to provide feedback on safeguards to prevent diversion of the prescription drug supply, the medications that should require in-person evaluation, and data requirements for practitioners and pharmacies.
  • HAP’s advocacy:  “While we appreciate that the proposed rule expands the pre-pandemic prescribing landscape, it falls short of the stated goal of expanding access and ensuring continuity of care for patients,” HAP wrote in an advocacy letter during March.

People wishing to attend the event online must register online by August 21. The event also will be streamed online.

Additional information is available online.

For questions, contact Jennifer Jordan, vice president, regulatory, behavioral health and equity strategy, or Kate McCale, senior director, compliance support.