DEA Extends Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescribing of Managed Drugs

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Up to date on Could 11, 2023

On Could 10, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Company (DEA) launched a brand new regulation – “Momentary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Managed Drugs” – briefly extending the “full set” of DEA’s COVID-19 waivers for prescribing managed substances by way of telemedicine. These waivers, which have been in place since March 2020, at the moment are prolonged by way of November 11, 2023. As well as, for any practitioner-patient relationships created through the waiver interval, the waivers will proceed to use by way of November 11, 2024. Put one other means, if a affected person and practitioner set up a telemedicine relationship by November 11, 2023, the identical flexibilities that ruled the prescribing will proceed to use by way of November 11, 2024.

Whereas that is only a momentary extension of COVID flexibilities, it may be thought of a win for sufferers and clinicians utilizing telemedicine. The credit score goes to the general public at massive for making their voices heard (loudly) by way of the submission of a record-breaking 38,369 public feedback to the proposed telemedicine rule. These public feedback have been a major purpose for this extension. Our gratitude additionally goes out to the Administration and the management at DEA and Substance Abuse and Psychological Well being Companies Administration (SAMHSA) for listening to these voices. Lastly, a thanks to our shoppers and the stakeholder skilled associations, together with the American Telemedicine Affiliation (ATA), for his or her tireless advocacy in pursuit of affected person care.

Key Provisions Beneath the DEA’s Momentary Rule

1. What’s the Ryan Haight Act?

The statutory foundation for the DEA’s rule is the Ryan Haight On-line Pharmacy Shopper Safety Act of 2008 (Ryan Haight Act), which prohibits the distributing, meting out or supply of managed substances by way of the Web with no legitimate prescription. It applies solely in restricted circumstances the place the practitioner needs to prescribe a managed substance by way of telemedicine and has by no means performed an in-person medical examination of the affected person.

The Ryan Haight Act requires a practitioner to conduct no less than one in-person medical analysis of the affected person earlier than prescribing a managed substance by the use of the “Web” (a broadly-defined time period that features telemedicine). As soon as the practitioner has performed this in-person medical analysis, the Ryan Haight Act doesn’t set an expiration interval or requirement for subsequent annual exams. Failure to conduct this in-person medical analysis can represent a per se violation of the Managed Substances Act and end in civil and felony penalties.

The Ryan Haight Act was designed to fight the proliferation of so-called “rogue Web websites” that unlawfully disbursed managed substances by the use of the Web, together with on-line pharmacies providing managed substances with no legitimate doctor-patient relationship. But the broad language of the Ryan Haight Act applies not solely to pharmacies, but in addition to legit practitioners who prescribe managed substances by way of telemedicine. 

Within the years because it was enacted, the DEA has used the Ryan Haight Act to manage {the marketplace}, sanctioning practitioners and pharmacies whose unethical and substandard prescribing practices violated the legislation.

2. Is that this rule issued pursuant to one of many “observe of telemedicine” exceptions underneath the Ryan Haight Act?

Sure. The Ryan Haight Act incorporates seven “observe of telemedicine” exceptions to the in-person medical analysis requirement. These are seven distinct classes Congress decided have been acceptable to permit for telemedicine prescribing of managed substances regardless of the practitioner by no means having examined the affected person in particular person. The rule creates the momentary extension underneath exception #7, a versatile catch-all exception (“The observe of telemedicine is being performed underneath every other circumstances that the [DEA] Administrator and the Secretary of Well being and Human Companies have collectively, by regulation, decided to be in keeping with efficient controls towards diversion and in any other case in keeping with the general public well being and security.”). The rule is issued pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 802(54)(G) and amends 21 C.F.R. Half 1307 and 42 C.F.R. Half 12. 

3. What is that this rule meant to perform?

In accordance with the DEA, the rule is designed to increase the COVID-19 telemedicine flexibilities in place to make sure sufferers don’t expertise lapses in care, and to make sure continuity of care underneath the present telehealth flexibilities in place because of the COVID-PHE. Additionally it is meant to facilitate continuity of look after telemedicine relationships established by way of telemedicine through the COVID-19 PHE and deal with the pressing public well being want for continued entry to the initiation of buprenorphine as treatment for opioid use dysfunction. Different acknowledged functions are:

  • Enable sufferers, practitioners, pharmacists, service suppliers, and different stakeholders adequate time to organize for the implementation of any future laws that apply to prescribing of managed medicines by way of telemedicine;

     

  • Allow DEA, collectively with SAMHSA, to totally assessment and reply to the 38,369 feedback they acquired in response to the 2 notices of proposed rulemaking; and

     

  • Allow DEA, collectively with SAMHSA, to conduct an intensive analysis of regulatory alternate options with a purpose to promulgate laws that the majority successfully increase entry to telemedicine encounters in a fashion that’s in keeping with public well being and security, whereas sustaining efficient controls towards diversion.

    Observe: This last objective (conduct a “thorough analysis of regulatory alternate options”) doubtlessly hints the DEA is open to think about one other various, reminiscent of publishing a Telemedicine Particular Registration rule. A Telemedicine Particular Registration rule is a wonderful car to unravel for most of the considerations about balancing entry to care whereas limiting and figuring out unscrupulous prescribing patterns and unlawful diversion.

4. What time interval does this rule cowl?

The rule extends the COVID-19 PHE DEA telemedicine flexibilities by way of November 11, 2023. For any practitioner-patient relationships established by way of telemedicine encounters on or earlier than that date, the rule additionally extends the COVID-19 PHE telemedicine flexibilities by way of November 11, 2024.

  • The complete set of telemedicine flexibilities concerning prescription of managed medicines as have been in place through the COVID-19 PHE will stay in place by way of November 11, 2023.

     

  • For practitioner-patient telemedicine relationships established on or earlier than November 11, 2023, the complete set of telemedicine flexibilities concerning prescription of managed medicines as have been in place through the COVID-19 PHE will proceed to be permitted by way of a one-year grace interval by way of November 11, 2024. In different phrases, if a affected person and a practitioner have established a telemedicine relationship on or earlier than November 11, 2023, the identical telemedicine flexibilities which have ruled the connection to that time are permitted till November 11, 2024.

5. Which DEA waivers are prolonged underneath this rule?

DEA mentioned it’s extending the “full set” of telemedicine flexibilities concerning the prescription of managed medicines, referencing the 2 DEA letters that licensed telemedicine waivers.

  • A March 25, 2020 “Expensive Registrant” letter signed by William T. McDermott, DEA’s then-Assistant Administrator, Diversion Management Division.
  • A March 31, 2020 “Expensive Registrant” letter signed by Thomas W. Prevoznik DEA’s then-Deputy Assistant Administrator, Diversion Management Division.

The March 25 letter addressed two waiver exceptions: one associated to DEA registrations in particular person states; and one associated to the in-person analysis requirement. It acknowledged, in related half:

  • DEA-registered practitioners usually are not required to acquire further registration(s) with DEA within the further state(s) the place the meting out (together with prescribing and administering) happens, in the course of the general public well being emergency declared on January 31, 2020, if licensed to dispense managed substances by each the state during which a practitioner is registered with DEA and the state during which the meting out happens. Practitioners, in different phrases, should be registered with DEA in no less than one state and have permission underneath state legislation to observe utilizing managed substances within the state the place the meting out happens.

     

  • Beneath the Managed Substances Act (CSA), a prescription for a managed substance issued by the use of the Web should usually be predicated on an in-person medical analysis. See 21 U.S.C. § 829(e)(1). This requirement doesn’t apply, nonetheless, when a practitioner is practising telemedicine as outlined by the CSA. The CSA’s definition of the observe of telemedicine consists of a number of completely different classes of telemedicine. For a number of of those classes, the CSA particularly requires a practitioner to have a DEA registration within the state during which the affected person is situated. See, e.g., 21 U.S.C. § 802(54)(A), (B). However the observe of telemedicine throughout a public well being emergency pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 802(54)(D) doesn’t embrace this requirement. On March 16, 2020, the Secretary of america Division of Well being & Human Companies, with concurrence of the Performing DEA Administrator, designated that the telemedicine allowance underneath part 802(54)(D) applies to all schedule II-V managed substances in all areas of america.

The March 31 letter prolonged waivers with respect to prescribing of buprenorphine. It acknowledged, in related half:

  • DEA notes that practitioners have additional flexibility through the nationwide public well being emergency to prescribe buprenorphine to new and present sufferers with opioid use dysfunction (OUD) by way of phone by in any other case licensed practitioners with out requiring such practitioners to first conduct an examination of the affected person in particular person or by way of telemedicine.

The currently-prevailing interpretation is that this newly-released rule extends the waivers in each the March 25 letter (registration and in-person examination) and March 31 letter (buprenorphine), collectively constituting the “full set” of telemedicine flexibilities. Foley has reached out to DEA for affirmation that the registration necessities are being prolonged and can replace this weblog after we obtain a response.

6. What’s the definition of “telemedicine relationship established by way of COVID-19 telemedicine prescribing flexibilities”?

Beneath the rule, “telemedicine relationship established by way of COVID-19 telemedicine prescribing flexibilities” means:

  1. The practitioner has not performed an in-person medical analysis of the affected person; and

     

  2. The practitioner has prescribed a number of managed substances to the affected person through the interval Could 12, 2023 by way of November 11, 2023 and the next circumstances are met:
    1. The prescription is issued for a legit medical objective by a practitioner appearing within the common course {of professional} observe;
    2. The prescription is issued pursuant to a communication between a practitioner and a affected person utilizing an interactive telecommunications system referred to in 42 C.F.R. § 410.78(a)(3);
    3. The practitioner is:
      1. Approved underneath their registration underneath 21 C.F.R. § 1301.13(e)(1)(iv) to prescribe the fundamental class of managed substance specified on the prescription; or
      2. Exempt from acquiring a registration to dispense managed substances underneath 21 U.S.C. § 822(d); and
    4. The prescription is in keeping with all different necessities of 21 C.F.R. Half 1306.

On Could 11, 2023, Foley acquired affirmation from the DEA’s Part Chief of its Diversion Regulatory Draft and Coverage Assist Part (Scott Brinks) that the registration coverage outlined within the March 25, 2020 letter is being prolonged.  Thus, the coverage on single-state DEA registrations in place through the PHE will proceed through the length of the flexibilities as outlined within the momentary rule.

7. Does this rule shed any mild on how DEA views telemedicine and telemedicine firms usually?

Sure. Within the rule, DEA acknowledged “SAMHSA and DEA strongly assist insurance policies that promote entry to efficient and secure remedy for opioid use dysfunction, together with by way of telemedicine platforms, and guaranteeing continued entry to essential managed medicines previous the COVID-PHE.” DEA additionally harassed:

Whereas sure telemedicine firms might interact in problematic conduct, many telemedicine firms are engaged in good religion, patient-centered prescribing practices. DEA seems to be ahead to working with them – and future firms on this house – to additional improve affected person entry to wanted medicines when telemedicine prescriptions are acceptable and issued within the common course {of professional} observe following bona fide medical evaluations.

Regardless of the bullishness severally, DEA stays involved about “problematic prescribing practices” and needs to “disincentivize the creation of telemedicine firms which will search to have interaction in problematic prescribing practices.” Within the meantime, DEA acknowledged it’s actively investigating sure telemedicine firms DEA believes might have engaged in problematic prescribing practices.

8. What comes subsequent after this rule?

In accordance with DEA, the “purpose of this momentary rule is to make sure a easy transition for sufferers and practitioners which have come to depend on the supply of telemedicine for managed treatment prescriptions, in addition to permitting ample time for suppliers to return into compliance with any new requirements or safeguards that DEA and/or SAMHSA promulgate in a number of last guidelines.”

DEA mentioned it plans to situation “a number of last guidelines … based mostly on the 2 proposed guidelines printed on March 1, 2023”. DEA anticipates such last rule(s) will “prolong[] sure telemedicine flexibilities on a everlasting foundation” to allow “the observe of telemedicine underneath circumstances which can be in keeping with public well being and security, whereas sustaining efficient controls towards diversion.” 

Conclusion

This rule solely momentary extends the telemedicine flexibilities for sufferers seen previous to November 11, 2023. Telemedicine firms should stay centered on preparation for care after this date. Based mostly on the timeframe of the extension, it’s possible the DEA will situation a brand new telemedicine last rule (based mostly on the March proposed rule) previous to November 11, 2023. We’ll proceed to watch for updates.

Wish to Be taught Extra?

We’d prefer to thank Jennifer Walsh, Director of Public Affairs for her contribution to this weblog put up.

Foley is right here that will help you deal with the short- and long-term impacts within the wake of regulatory modifications. For extra data on telemedicine, telehealth, digital care, distant affected person monitoring, digital well being, and different well being improvements, together with the crew, publications, and consultant expertise, go to Foley’s Telemedicine & Digital Well being Trade Staff or our Well being Care Follow Group.

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