The United States simultaneously faces two unprecedented public health crises: the opioid epidemic and the coronavirus pandemic.
Since U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s public health emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus, the federal government has urged the nation to practice social distancing to curb the infection’s spread.
But patients still need to access care—including the over 350,000 individuals who rely on daily treatment programs for opioid use disorder (OUD) to sustain their recovery. During this period of social distancing, some addiction treatment providers are turning to telemedicine, the use of electronic systems to provide care to patients in remote locations.
To ease providers’ ability to offer telehealth services to patients with opioid addiction, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently issued guidance that allows practitioners to prescribe certain controlled substances remotely to patients in a treatment program for self-administration.
Controlled substances are drugs for which the DEA regulates production, distribution, and use. Health care providers must register with the DEA to prescribe these drugs. Furthermore, DEA-licensed practitioners must conduct an in-person medical evaluation before prescribing controlled substances to a patient.
The law, however, authorizes the Health and Human Services Secretary and the DEA Acting Administrator to make an exception to the in-person evaluation requirement.
During a declared public health emergency, providers can prescribe controlled substances for at-home use after telehealth consultations with patients. Although the DEA’s guidance obviates the need for practitioners to conduct in-person evaluations before prescribing these medications, providers must still meet three main conditions.
Source: The Regulatory Review