Isha Health wants to reassure our patients that they can continue to access our care even after May 11th, when the public health emergency ends. We understand that some of our patients may have concerns about the recent proposed rules by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which would reinstate strict limitations on the virtual prescribing of controlled substances, including ketamine, through telehealth. However, we would like to reassure our patients that the DEA has decided to extend the current flexibilities while they work to find a way forward to provide Americans with access to needed medications with appropriate safeguards.
The Biden administration said that the new rule seeks to provide safeguards to prevent online over-prescribing of controlled medications. However, the DEA received a record 38,000 comments on its proposed telemedicine rules, according to a statement from DEA Administrator Anne Milgram issued Wednesday. The agency is taking these comments seriously and is considering them carefully.
The proposed rules would require patients to be evaluated in person by a doctor to receive prescriptions for some controlled substances, including stimulants like Adderall and opioids such as oxycodone and buprenorphine used to treat opioid use disorder. This would create barriers to care and restrict access to needed medications, especially for patients in rural areas.
Under the proposed rule, Schedule 2 medications or narcotics would require an in-person prescription. Schedule 3 or higher medications, including buprenorphine, can be prescribed for 30 days via telehealth but would require an in-person visit before a refill. Non-narcotic drugs like Ambien, Valium, Xanax, and ketamine also fall into this category. If a patient is referred to a provider, an in-person appointment is not required as long as one took place with the referring physician.
Telehealth providers are relieved that the DEA is extending the COVID rules for telemedicine. The expanded use of telehealth services during the pandemic was shown to reduce the risk of opioid overdoses, according to a 2022 study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The study found that telehealth services led to an increase in OUD treatment access and adherence. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reacted positively to the DEA's announcement and hopes that this will minimize care disruptions for family physicians and their patients when the public health emergency ends.
At Isha Health, we understand that access to care is essential for our patients. We are committed to providing our patients with the best possible care, even as regulations continue to change. We want our patients to know that we are here for them, and they can continue to access our care even after May 11th. If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team. We are always here to help you.