news warner criticizes new dea rule regarding telehealth for patients prescribed controlled substances

Warner criticizes new DEA rule regarding telehealth for patients prescribed controlled substances

(© Rido –

The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency provided many flexibilities for Americans, including exempting patients from in-person medical evaluation.

The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act regulated online prescriptions of controlled substances.

The Public Health Emergency will expire May 11, 2023, at which time patients will lose the benefit of telehealth options for future prescriptions.

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia released a statement last week regarding a new rule proposed by the Drug Enforcement Agency which would extend the availability of telehealth services. A public comment period is open for 30 days.

“Given the dramatic shortage of mental health providers nationwide, expanded access to prescribers through telehealth is key to making sure that patients can continue getting their medications, including those that treat opioid use disorder, as they have for the past three years. More than half of U.S. counties don’t have a single psychiatrist. While folks once had to take time off work, commute to a medical facility, and sit in a waiting room, they now can get in front of a prescriber quickly, from nearly any location, and through a single click thanks to pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities,” Warner said.

According to Warner, the DEA’s new rule “neglects to set up a special registration allowing specially certified and trained prescribers to continue to safely prescribe controlled substances virtually without requiring an in-person visit. I worry that this rule, as written, overlooks the key benefits and lessons learned during the pandemic, and could counterproductively exacerbate the opioid crisis and encourage more risky behavior by pushing patients to seek dangerous alternatives to proper health care, such as self-medicating, if they cannot access an in-person appointment with a specialized provider.”

Congress directed the DEA in 2008 to set up a special registration process, another exception process under the Ryan Haight Act, that would open up the door for quality health care providers to evaluate a patient and prescribe these medications over telehealth safely, as they’ve done during the pandemic. However, this special registration process has yet to be established, and the DEA believes this new proposed rule fulfills Congressional mandates.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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