May 10, 2023
The ability to prescribe controlled substances based on telehealth patient visits was set to expire when the federal COVID-19 public health emergency ends on Thursday, May 11, 2023. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently issued two proposed rules establishing new post COVID PHE policies for controlled substance prescriptions based on telehealth visits, one for buprenorphine and one for other controlled substances.
After receiving a backlash of opposition from the California Medical Association (CMA) and others in organized medicine, and more than 38,000 letters, DEA has issued a temporary rule that will extend the same policies that have been in place during the COVID-19 public health emergency for an additional 6 months, until November 11, 2023.
There will also be an additional one-year grace period for pre-existing telemedicine relationships. That means, if a patient and a practitioner have established a telemedicine relationship on or before November 11, 2023, the same telemedicine flexibilities that have governed the relationship to that point are permitted until November 11, 2024.
According to DEA, the goal of this temporary rule is to ensure a smooth transition for physicians and patients who have come to rely on the availability of telemedicine for controlled medication prescriptions, and allow adequate time for providers to come into compliance with any new standards or safeguards that DEA promulgates in the final rules.
CMA applauds this extension, which will allow patients to continue to receive safe and effective care via telemedicine. CMA submitted comments on the proposed regulations, urging DEA to ensure that any new rules will not limit access for our most vulnerable patients.