Feds to restrict some telehealth prescriptions for ADHD drugs, painkillers

The Biden administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration said physicians will no longer be able to prescribe some medications via telehealth without meeting the patient in person first, CBS News reported Feb. 27.

The rule change comes after concerns the current rules may have led to physicians and telehealth companies overprescribing medications such as OxyContin and Adderall. The updated rule, which will take effect before May 11, will require patients seeking attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications and addictive painkillers, along with a few others such as codeine, Ambien and buprenorphine, to meet with a physician in person to receive prescriptions. Refills can be given over telehealth, according to the report.

The rule seeks to keep the benefits of telehealth for rural communities while balancing patient safety, described as "expanding telemedicine with guardrails," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told CBS News.

"Both sides of this tension have really good points," David Herzberg, a historian of drugs at the University at Buffalo (N.Y.), told CBS News. "You don't want barriers in the way of getting people prescriptions they need. But anytime you remove those barriers, it's also an opportunity for profit seekers to exploit the lax rules and sell the medicines to people who may not need them."

The new rule will be in place before the COVID-19 public health emergency expires May 11, ending the loosened rules during the pandemic. Patients will have six months to visit their physician in person when the regulation is enacted.

Some physicians are outraged by the proposed rule. 

"Why is a law enforcement agency — with literally no medical or health background or capacity whatsoever — dictating how patients and their healthcare professionals can have appointments and how people can access or receive medical care?" Ryan Marino, MD, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at University Hospitals in Cleveland, tweeted Feb. 24.

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