DEA allows opioids to be prescribed remotely during COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has determined that medical professionals will be able to prescribe opioids during the COVID-19 outbreak remotely. Under a new classification, the agency determined healthcare providers can prescribe opioids via telehealth sessions.
“While a prescription for a controlled substance issued by means of the Internet (including telemedicine) must generally be predicated on an in-person medical evaluation (21 U.S.C. 829(e)), the Controlled Substances Act contains certain exceptions to this requirement,” the Diversion Control Division wrote.
This announcement comes in the wake of the public health emergency declared by HHS Secretary Alex Azar on January 31, 2020. “One such exception occurs when the Secretary of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency under 42 U.S.C. 247d (section 319 of the Public Health Service Act), as set forth in 21 U.S.C. 802(54)(D).”
Traditional law required that professionals meet with their clients in order to prescribe addictive pain pills. “For as long as the Secretary’s designation of a public health emergency remains in effect, DEA-registered practitioners may issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical evaluation, provided all of the following conditions are met,” the agency stated. These include:
“The prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice;
The telemedicine communication is conducted using an audio-visual, real-time, two-way interactive communication system;
The practitioner is acting in accordance with applicable Federal and State law.”
The DEA Diversion Control Division added that the industry is not facing a drug shortage at this time.
“The DEA is unaware of any shortages of controlled substances at this time,” the agency wrote, stating it “is working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on monitoring the supply of controlled substance availability during the COVID-19 pandemic…For as long as the Secretary’s designation of a public health emergency remains in effect, DEA-registered practitioners may issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical evaluation.”
Telehealth has proven effective in allowing practitioners to continue facilitating patient access to care while, at the same time, keeping providers safe. It means medical professionals are still meeting with patients, patients have not been left in the dark – so it’s a win-win.
“The Trump Administration is taking swift and bold action to give patients greater access to care through telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Seema Verma, administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in an earlier release. “These changes allow seniors to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit the risk of exposure and the spread of this virus. Clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries.”
Certain pharmacies and grocery stores with pharmacies inside are also extending their hours to seniors only so they can pick up essential medications without worrying about coming into contact with others. In a recent Coronavirus Response Update, Walmart issued the following statement:
“To better support customers age 60 and up, our stores will host a special shopping hour from 6 am to 7 am every Tuesday, Mar. 24 through Apr. 28. It will start one hour before stores open to the public, and pharmacies will be available during this time, as well. Vision centers will also be open to help with emergency and essential needs only.”