Doctors say the benefits of keeping prescription rules relaxed outweigh the risks.
During the pandemic, telehealth became quite common. While it does have its limitations, when COVID-19 was at its peak and everyone was afraid of leaving the house, it became very handy. Telehealth can be done over voice or video chat through a computer, tablet, and smartphone. It is extremely convenient, especially when there is a global pandemic. Prescription rules also relaxed and were offered during virtual appointments.
With online appointments, doctors can do a lot of things that they normally would have to do in person thanks to relaxed rules. This includes prescription rules, issuing scripts for addictive drugs like opioids such as Xanax, Adderall, methadone, and buprenorphine. Now that the pandemic is no longer near the levels it was in 2020, it’s been questioned whether these relaxed rules for prescribing such powerful narcotics would go back to how they were before. And the likely answer is: Yes.
A patient needing something prescribed will probably soon have to visit their doctor in order to get the actual prescription. However, a large percentage of doctors want the pandemic era rules to stay in place for now. Critics argue that the relaxed rules could make it easier for people to get access to opioids.
On the other hand, opioid addiction in the United States is something that continues to wreak havoc on much of the population. According to the National Library of Medicine, about three million U.S. citizens suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD). Worldwide, the number is as high as sixteen million. Since the 1990s, this problem has skyrocketed. Healthcare providers pushed addictive opioids, along with others in the supply chain (especially drug manufacturers) leading to the current issue. Once a prescription runs out, it’s likely that those addicted will turn to other, cheaper drugs on the streets such as heroin.
Due to this, it is no wonder the critics are against extending the relaxed pandemic era rules that enable doctors to prescribe narcotics over a computer screen. They argue that this could increase use or lead to more overdoses. Their fear is, perhaps, understandable.
Doctors and supporters of the relaxed prescription rules say that the benefits outweigh the risks. For some people, waiting for an in-person visit to fill or refill a script could result in a negative impact on their health. Getting them the possible life-saving medication they need right away, on the other hand, can be what determines if they will live or die. In one study, the expanded use of telehealth even made people on Medicaid less likely to overdose on opioids. This is just one study, but it does highlight how useful and important online or phone appointments can be.
Recently, the telehealth rules have been extended for another 90 days by the United States federal government. Once that time period is up, it will be reassessed. While it has gone in the doctor’s favor so far, it could change and go back to the way it was pre-pandemic.
The one thing that is for certain is that telehealth medicine, in general,, is here to stay. It’s convenient, and for people who can’t get to the doctor easily for whatever reason, it’s a been a blessing. This could be for health reasons, lack of transportation, childcare concerns or simply not being able to take time off work.