AMA urges Walmart to delay policy that restricts patients' access to critical drugs

Walmart will only accept electronic prescriptions for controlled substances starting in 2020, meaning patients taking drugs to treat such conditions as anxiety, depression, HIV/AIDS or sickle cell disease may be unable to fill their prescriptions at Walmart, the American Medical Association argues.

Because drugs to treat those conditions are considered controlled substances, patients will be required to provide Walmart an electronic prescription. But, the AMA said that a majority of physicians in the U.S. cannot provide electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, as 44 percent of them don't have the technology, hardware and certifications required.

The AMA sent a letter to Walmart Nov. 26 urging the retail giant to delay implementing the policy until certain regulatory standards, including a requirement of biometric authentication are changed.

In many rural parts of the country, Walmart is the only pharmacy within a reasonable distance, leaving patients with few alternatives to get their medications. Patients in every state would likely be affected by the policy.

The letter states that the policy is so restrictive, 1.5 million Walmart employees may not be able to fill their prescriptions at their place of work.

The AMA is urging Walmart to delay the policy until more physicians are able to provide electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, and asks that Walmart not require electronic prescriptions in a state unless the state's legislative or regulatory board has approved the policy.

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