(NewsNation) — Even though the United States’ COVID-19 public health emergency declaration has now ended, telemedicine flexibilities adopted during the pandemic, like the ones allowing certain medication prescriptions to be filled via telehealth, will stay in place for another six months.
On Tuesday, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued the “Temporary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications.” This temporary rule, which takes effect Thursday, extended the full set of telemedicine flexibilities through Nov. 11, a news release stated.
If a patient and a practitioner have established a telemedicine relationship on or before Nov. 11 2023, “the same telemedicine flexibilities that governed the relationship to that point are permitted until November 11, 2024,” the DEA added.
A recorded 38,000 public comments were received by the DEA after they first proposed the rule in March.
“We take those comments seriously and are considering them carefully,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. “We recognize the importance of telemedicine in providing Americans with access to needed medications, and we have decided to extend the current flexibilities for six months while we work to find a way forward to give Americans that access with appropriate safeguards.”
Before the pandemic, patients were legally required to see a doctor in-person for a prescription for a controlled substance, per the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008. Controlled substances, according to HealthDay News, can include a long list of medications, such as stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or benzodiazepines for anxiety.
In a statement earlier this week, the American Medical Association lauded the decision to allow controlled substances to be prescribed through telehealth for another six months.
“These medications, including those used to treat opioid use disorder, are a vital form of care for millions of Americans who have come to rely on safe and effective telemedicine appointments,” Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, chair of the AMA’s Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force, said. “Patients being treated with these medications often have challenges securing and traveling to in-person appointments. We are grateful the DEA is approaching this issue with the gravity it deserves.”
CNN reports that there will eventually be a final, permanent set of regulations by the DEA.