Patients could lose telehealth access to opioid addiction treatment

Patients being treated virtually for opioid addiction may have to return to in-person care if the federal government doesn't extend regulations allowing these types of telemedicine visits, Politico reported June 20.

The public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic greatly expanded access to telehealth, waiving the face-to-face requirement for the prescribing of buprenorphine for opioid use disorder. But that order is set to expire as soon as October, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has missed deadlines to allow patients to receive controlled substances without in-person appointments, according to Politico.

“If we now remove the flexibilities with telehealth, we will make the problem even worse,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the news outlet. “Patients will just go untreated.”

In the wake of the easing regulations, digital health apps that allow people to get opioid addiction treatment remotely have proliferated. One of them is Bicycle Health, which Becker's reported June 7 got $50 million in venture capital funding to expand its virtual offerings. Those companies' business models could be in jeopardy without the government intervention, Politico reported.

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