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Drug Enforcement Administration

Drug Enforcement Administration extends COVID-19-Based Controlled Substance Prescribing Policy

In a document scheduled published in the Federal Register May 10, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) extends through November 11th the so-called “COVID” exception to the Ryan Haight Act and DEA’s implementing regulation (21 U.S.C. 802(54)(D)). The regulation at issue requires a prescriber to conduct at least one in-person medical evaluation of a patient prior to prescribing that patient controlled medications. The practical effect of the DEA’s extension of the “COVID” exception is that telemedicine providers may continue to prescribe Schedule II-V controlled medications without having conducted an in-person evaluation of their patient provided that:

The prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of professional practice;
The prescription is issued using an approved telecommunications system (42 CFR 410.78(a)(3);
The practitioner is authorized under their registration to prescribe the drug (42 CFR 1301.13(E)(1)(iv) or exempt from obtaining a registration (21 U.S.C. 822(d); and
The prescription is consistent with all other requirements of 21 CFR 1306.

The DEA also announced there will be a one-year grace period for telemedicine patient-prescriber relationships that begin before Nov. 11, 2023, meaning those patients may continue to receive prescriptions for controlled substances over telehealth through Nov. 11, 2024.

The purpose of this temporary rule is to allow the DEA more time to develop a final set of regulations governing the practice of telemedicine. The goal is to craft regulations that protect public health and safety, prevent lapses in patient care, and promote access to safe and effective treatment for opioid use disorder.

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