DEA Extends Telehealth Flexibilities for Controlled Medications Prescribing: Insights from Isha Health


DEA Extends Telehealth Flexibilities for Controlled Medications Prescribing: Insights from Isha Health

Written by

Isha Team


October 6, 2023


October 6, 2023

At Isha Health, we closely follow the evolving landscape of telehealth, particularly regarding the recent announcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing controlled medications through 2024. This significant decision reflects a critical step in adapting to the changing healthcare environment and ensuring accessibility to necessary care for patients.

According to the DEA website, “DEA received more than 38,000 comments on its proposed telemedicine rules and recently held two days of public listening sessions related to those rules.  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.  Accordingly, DEA, jointly with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has extended current telemedicine flexibilities through December 31, 2024.  The full text of the extension, entitled “Second Temporary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications,” was submitted to the Federal Register jointly with HHS on September 29.”

The DEA's move comes after a series of comprehensive listening sessions aimed at shaping regulations on prescribing controlled substances through telemedicine. Telehealth leaders and medical professionals have advocated for prescribing via virtual care, emphasizing that in-person mandates for obtaining prescriptions can impede access to care, especially for medications such as Adderall or buprenorphine crucial in treating conditions like opioid use disorder.

By extending these flexibilities, the DEA aims to strike a balance between enhancing patient access to care and mitigating the potential risks of diversion and misuse of controlled substances. However, it's essential to recognize that this extension is a short-term measure, intended to pave the way for more permanent policy changes while avoiding the proliferation of problematic prescribing practices.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DEA temporarily relaxed restrictions on prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine, recognizing the urgency and necessity of remote healthcare. However, proposed rules earlier this year reinstated some limitations, triggering concerns within the medical community.

Looking ahead, 2024 is poised to be a pivotal year for telehealth, as many flexibilities enacted during the pandemic are set to expire. At Isha Health, we believe it's a historic opportunity to advocate for permanent changes that will broaden access to essential care, particularly for underserved patient populations. We echo the sentiments of organizations urging for urgency in establishing permanent rules and pathways for tele-prescribing, aligning with the evolving healthcare landscape and patient needs.

As we continue to navigate this transformative phase in healthcare, Isha Health remains committed to delivering insights and updates on telemedicine, telehealth, and patient-centered care. Stay tuned for more updates on this critical aspect of modern healthcare.

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