The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has submitted plans to extend prescription flexibilities for telemedicine that were adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic as the end of the public health emergency for the outbreak quickly approaches.
Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DEA temporarily relaxed several rules when it came to prescribing controlled substances in order to ensure that patients were still able to access necessary care. The public health emergency is set to end on May 11.
During lockdown, the agency began to allow providers to prescribe buprenorphine — a treatment for opioid use disorder — over telehealth appointments without requiring in-person visits.
“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,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement Wednesday.
The agency has previously indicated a desire to maintain the changes, announcing proposed rules in February to extend COVID-era flexibilities.
The proposed rules would allow providers to prescribe a 30-day supply of “Schedule III-V non-narcotic controlled medications” as well as buprenorphine without an in-person evaluation or a referral from a separate practitioner who has conducted an in-person evaluation.
However, the proposal also drew criticisms for leaving out Schedule II controlled substances, which include drugs like Adderall, oxycodone and Ritalin.