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DEA Extends Telehealth Prescribing through 2024

October 09, 2023

For the second time, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has extended the COVID-19 flexibilities that have allowed clinicians to virtually prescribe certain medications through 2024.

The agency said it needs additional time to review 38,000 comments on proposed telehealth rules this year and feedback from two recent public listening sessions. The agency said it’s balancing the flexibilities that improve access to care with the need for safeguards to prevent diversion of controlled substances prescribed via telehealth.

“We continue to carefully consider the input received and are working to promulgate a final set of telemedicine regulations by the fall of 2024, giving patients and medical practitioners time to plan for, and adapt to, the new rules once issued,” the DEA said in a statement.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The issue:  The DEA and federal health agencies have been mulling updated changes to telehealth prescribing, taking into account flexibilities that allowed virtual prescribing without an in-person visit during the pandemic.
  • The process:  The DEA has asked for feedback on allowing the prescription of certain controlled medications through telehealth when the prescribing practitioner has never conducted an in-person medical evaluation.
  • Extension details:  This extension authorizes all DEA-registered practitioners to prescribe schedule II-V controlled medications via telehealth through December 31, 2024.
  • Advocacy concerns:  HAP and other organizations have raised concerns about a DEA proposal that would limit prescribing of certain FDA drugs for detoxification treatment (buprenorphine) based on a telehealth encounter to a 30-day supply and require an in-person visit for a refill.
  • Quotable:  The second temporary rule will “ensure a smooth transition for patients and practitioners that have come to rely on the availability of telemedicine for controlled medication prescriptions” and time for “providers to come into compliance with any new standards or safeguards,” the DEA said.

DEA is working to develop new standards or safeguards by fall 2024, agency officials said.

HAP continues to support the use of telehealth to support access to care, especially for patients with opioid use disorder and other behavioral health needs. Earlier this year, HAP submitted a comment letter to the DEA to preserve patient access to buprenorphine and other critical medications classified as controlled substances via telehealth.

“Limitations on prescribing critical medications used to treat mental illness will impact access to care and patient outcomes in a way that further disadvantages many patients who are already marginalized,” the HAP letter noted.

Additional information about the DEA’s announcement is available online.