DEA Rules to Preserve Pandemic-Era Telemedicine Flexibilities

Guiding Medweb for three decades, Dr. Peter “Pete” Killcommons is a Northern California telemedicine and teleradiology professional who delivers solutions that enable remote treatment of disease. Industry-focused, Dr. Peter Killcommons follows developments in the telemedicine sphere.

In February 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced a proposal to permanently institute, with safeguards, many telemedicine flexibilities that were launched during the pandemic. In particular, the rules would provide patients with access to a variety of virtual therapies, even after the official wind-down of the COVID-19 public health emergency set for May.

For in-person patient exams and telemedicine consultations themselves, there are no substantive changes to existing protocols. However, the rules do include new safeguards aimed at medical providers who follow telemedicine consultations with prescription of a controlled drug without having undertaken an in-person patient evaluation.

In such cases, providers would be allowed to prescribe a month’s supply of non-narcotic controlled drugs listed on Schedule III and Schedule IV (the least associated with drug abuse). The physician is also allowed to prescribe a 30-day buprenorphine supply for treating opioid use disorder with no in-person referral or in-person evaluation. The aim of this is to judiciously expand the accessibility of medications for those struggling with opioid addiction.